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

Honor the Brave

Brownwood, Texas, population of around 20,000, has created a memorial to soldiers from all U.S. wars and the military in general.

The Brownwood Garden Club was asked to create a flowerbed around this sign.  So we paid for the rock work, which looks great.  The ground is extremely hard, so we filled the bed with good soil and planted some drought tolerant plants.

Kudos to the committee who planned and executed everything.

The committee also planted around the Brown County Medal of Honor winner.  I had never heard of the Philippine Insurrection until recently when I was going through some old family photographs.

As it turns out, my mother’s uncle served there.  He’s seated.

The memorial reminds me of the WW II one in D. C.  in that it consists of monuments around a concrete circle.

Unfortunately I forgot to count the number of granite slabs.  But all wars in which the U.S. has participated are represented.

The land of the free is possible because of the brave who served and are serving.

This one appears to be the first monument put up because I think it’s concrete and more difficult to read.

Camp Bowie in Brownwood was the largest base in the U.S. during WW II.  Today it serves as a training site for the National Guard.

In the background is a Howitzer, used during WW II.

Did not see any information that dates this jeep.

Used by U.S. soldiers every where they were sent during WW II, “Kilroy was here” signs scribbled on any available site proved to be a morale booster.   Soldiers were relieved to see that other Americans had preceded them.

It is thought that the original legend of Kilroy dates to World War II and a man named James J. Kilroy (1902-1962), who lived in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Click on Kilroy to read the full story.

Developed by Bell Helicopter in Ft. Worth, Hueys were designed to be used for medical evacuations.  The first one was flown in 1956.

Sad to report that four of the monuments were destroyed.  It is still unclear if the strong straight-line winds in the area toppled them or it was vandalism.  The Jaycees are in the process of raising $40,000 to replace them.

My thanks to all the past and present men and women who have served to keep our country free.

“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!”

Katherine Lee Bates

Dark and Light Contrasts

Shadows and bright sunlight in the same picture can be too harsh of extremes.  Unfortunately, here in Texas, that’s a reality and difficult to avoid.

The plants in the sun can look more like sculptures rather than living things.  So I’m trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with these extreme exposures.  Please bear with me.

Chandor Gardens uses many different oriental structures because they fascinated the original owner and builder.

Patterns on the large stepping stones are created by the sunlight breaking through the tree branches above.  The same sunlight creates a white Fourth of July sparkler of one of the hanging Spider Plants.

This rough stone pedestal has oriental statutes standing on flat surfaces.  Not my favorite thing.

The top crossbars on this pergola have curved edges to give it an oriental look.  The red Japanese Maple adds contrasting color with the surrounding greenery.

The long lower area of grass near the original residence was once used for lawn bowling, I think.  Gotta be a bugaboo to mow that, so the modern version is artificial turf.

Looking away from the house gives a sense of how long this sunken spot is.

The dense shrubs and trees provide shade and make it fairly comfortable to be here on a hot summer day.

There isn’t much whimsy in this formal garden, so I was surprised to see this addition.  I personally like little touches like this.

Looks like one of the many sages popular in Central and Northern Texas.  They can take the heat.

Boxwood hedges are used to define areas.

Since this garden is a hundred years old, keeping structures in sturdy condition is part of the upkeep.  This bridge was replaced a few years ago.

Nandina shrubs with red berries have become maligned choices because they are originally from Asia.  Some people consider them invasive.  I feel these accusations are a little strong.  Roses also came to us from Asia via Europe.

There is a serenity about this place that draws us back again and again.

Looks natural and wild but probably requires a lot of work.

Lots of water in small ponds provide a sense of coolness.

Love this curve promenade leading to the house area.  It also makes a grand entrance for brides who are wed here.

As summer heats up, hope you find some soothing cool shade.

“Gardening is about poetry and fantasy. It is as much an activity of the imagination as of the hands.”  by “Centipede” in The Guardian, April 7, 1892

Cozy Chandor Gardens

Chandor Gardens in Weatherford, TX, was originally a private space that is now owned by the city park system and is open to the public.  Its size is small compared to most public gardens but full of interesting nooks and crannies.

Since it’s two hours away from us, we visit about once a year.  Like most gardens, it’s constantly changing.  This concrete bowl is new.  The surrounding beds are full of annuals.

The bold midday sun makes it all look artificial and blurs the edges of the Snapdragons.

The small tufts of purple flowers is Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), a native to Caribbean islands that requires warmer winters to be perennial.

All the annals make a bright welcome.

A sidewalk from the entrance leads to the ticket office in the main house.  This little cherub sits on a wall where there are steps down to the next level of the garden.

The house was the home of the Chandors, owners and creators of the buildings and gardens.

The purple twinges on the Agaves reflect the purple ground cover.  The green Mondo Grasses line the walkway.

I heard the garden horticulturist explain to a group that the agaves were lifted out and stored in a green house during the winter.

This garden was established in the 1930’s, so the large, mature trees provide lots of shady areas.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) need mostly shade and lots of warm weather.  They are native to US southeast, which is perfect for them.

This man made-waterfall is especially impressive when one realizes the time frame of the construction and the lack of heavy equipment available.

Water Irises line the edge of the water pool, and a rose bush grows to the side of them.

The abundance of different varieties of trees and shrubs create cozy, protected spots.

Different levels of the garden provide interest.  I don’t know if these were natural or created.  Flowers are tucked into small and large spaces.

Mr. Chandor was fascinated by the Orient and used Japanese statuary throughout the garden.

Several varieties of Japanese Maples were planted.

One of my favorite features is this side entrance gate.

It was a gift to Mr. Chandor from a friend.

Looking through the gate beckons one to unknown treasures inside.  Entering opens that trove that gardeners love.

The next post will show other parts of the garden.  Thanks for visiting.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”   John Quincy Adams