Simple Small Surprises

Some people think that the big moments – like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, attending an spectacular event, or a wedding with all the bells and whistles – are the most important part of life. Those major events are memorable and photographs can be enjoyed for years.

But the majority of life is made up of life as usual; just earning a living and doing the daily tasks that need to be done.  So, the old saying “take time to smell the roses” is truly excellent advice for enjoying everyday life.

About three months ago, we bought a trailer load of compost.  With everything that has been happening, we just finished distributing it around the flower beds.  So as we slowly finished that and some other projects this week, I noticed some small sweet things that  brightened my day.

The Pincushion (Scabiosa pincushion) flowers stopped blooming when summer heat hit.  The cooler weather has brought a few flowers.

Pincushion Flowers get their name from how the center of the flower looks like pins (stamens) stuck into a cushion.  Pincushions were in common use when more people sewed their clothes.  Some of us old fogies still have them.

Growing low to the ground, a Scentimental rose catches my eye.  I love the stripped petals.

Early in the mornings, flocks of robins spread out in the yard.  Then, the usual residents join them for breakfast.  When I crack the door just a little to get a picture, they all scatter.  Someone must yell, “Hurry, everyone return to your hiding place.”  So they fly into trees and bushes.

This Mockingbird flew to the top of a Chinese Pistache tree.

A couple of pairs of Cardinals live in the bushes but are very shy about getting their picture taken.

It surprised me to see a Gulf Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) flowering.

Indian Summer Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) were planted in September.  They both had flowers.  But a day later, the flowers were gone.  Probably bitten off by a jackrabbit.  So I caged them.  This week I noticed one had a new flower.

This might be Mystic Blue Spirals, but I doubt it because the foliage isn’t shiny.  The plant has been in this pot for years and looks about like this from spring through fall. This group of Reblooming Irises has bloomed off and on since spring.  Not all Reblooming Irises perform this well.  The color is spectacular.

Appreciation and gratitude define how we experience life and react to the good and the difficult parts of life. They also make life infinitely sweeter.

“The best part of life’s journey is who you get to share it with.”  unknown

Fall Color

Yes.  We do have autumn color here in upper Central Texas.  The colors are different than in the eastern US, and they may not last as long, but they are beautiful.  I suspect that the colors don’t last as long because the temperatures stay high longer here.

Red Oaks keep some of their green leaves while others turn orange red.

Once the oak leaves fall on the ground, their color has faded to a light golden brown.

Clusters of orange-red berries drape at the ends of the branches of a Chinese Pistache tree.

The leaves of Eve’s Necklace turned golden yellow.  The seed “necklaces” are still hanging from the branches.

This Katy Road Pink rose bush has really large rose hips.  In Texas, it has retained this name because it was found at that location in Houston.  But, it was later determined that it was a Carefree Beauty rose that was developed by Dr. Buck at Iowa State University.

The size and bright orange red color, as well as the large number on a bush, makes the rose hips stand out.  Carefree Beauty roses do well in our heat and bloom from spring until the first frost.  It was named Earth-Kind® Rose of the year in 2006.

Small Mexican Buckeye trees/shrubs produce their seeds in unique shaped pods.  The seeds themselves are coal black and poisonous, as is the foliage.

In the spring, clusters of small pink flowers adorn the bush.

This small Agastache in the Hyssop family was planted a couple of months ago.  They are supposed to be cold hardy down to 10 degrees.  Heavy mulching for winter is encouraged.

Ever since it was placed in the ground, it has been covered with butterflies.  The temps have dropped in the mornings, but all sorts of butterflies continue to flock to it.  The butterfly in this picture is either Painted Lady or Tawny Emperor.

This Texas Ash is 13 or 14 years old but this is the first year the leaves have turned a deep gold color.

Hope your fall is colorful and calm.  With all the social distancing, being outside to enjoy nature is refreshing and comforting.

“Earth has no words that can convey the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus.”   Charles Sturgeon

Glorious Autumn Days

Whenever perfect autumn days comes to mind, these recent days fit the bill.  The weather has been mild, the skies blue with some puffy clouds and some colorful flowers in the yard.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) flowers hang gracefully on long, draping branches.

Roses are still blooming, like this Princess Alexandra of Kent, with an especially large flower as a last hurrah.

Bushes are rejuvenated with flowers.  Bright orange flowers of Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) against the soft, curly leaves make a striking combination.

Pollinators have been buzzing around busily getting their fill.

All kinds of butterflies have been flitting from flower to flower.  Most are so fast, it’s hard to snap a pix.  But this Sulfur lingered on a Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) blossom soaking up the sunshine and the nectar.

Purple flowers on a Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) and a few yellow Yarrows add some bright color.  The Blue Potato Bush is zone 8 – 11.  Mine is in a pot and was left out last winter and survived.

A little pop of red berries on a native vine glows in the late autumn sun.

What gems these days have been, so we savor them while they last.

“Life becomes more meaningful when you realize the simple fact that you’ll never get the same moment twice.”  unknown

Goodbye, Sweet Autumn

Winter snuck in overnight.  Or maybe we weren’t paying attention.  We both had what we thought was the flu and lots of outside chores were put on hold.  Turns out, we tested positive for covid.

At least, the predicted freezing sleet and icy roads did not happen.

One moment tropical Hibiscus was blooming and the next, everything had to be rushed into the greenhouse. So bundled up in a drizzling rain, we hustled to gather up what needed winter protection.

After we added soil to the pots and cleaned out some debris, African Bulbine did really well this year.  A South African native, it loves heat but is only cold hardy down to 20 degrees.

The roses have been a special treat this fall, blooming like crazy.  Princess Alexandra of Kent, a David Austin rose, has the sweetest aroma of any of my roses.  Plus, the form of the roses are spectacular.

Maggie Rose, which Dr. William Welch of A&M found in Louisiana, reblooms so often, it’s difficult to keep it deadheaded.

My all time favorite mum is Country Girl Mum.  With a totally different look from the more common Purple Aster, it lifts my heart every time I see it.

With its pink white large petals, it looks like a daisy in the fall.  It seems to originated in Texas, possibly as a seeding from another mum.  It’s definitely one for a home landscape.

“A mean thought is just a sin that happens on the inside.”                                            Lisa Wingate,  Never Say Never

Good Repeats

With so many flowers continuing to bloom, this autumn has been like a second spring.  As crazy as it sounds, cool weather in autumn is not the norm here.  It’s been a special treat this year.

The purchase of two small plants in 4″ pots made about 10 years ago has turned out to be one of my best buys.  Bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) is always a welcome sight.  Since it’s an annual that reseeds freely, large groups of it show up each spring.

A Hardy Hibiscus that was bought about 10 years ago at a garden club plant sale has proved to be a boon.  Anything with the word “hardy” (meaning cold hardy for our area) in its name can withstand our dry and hot summer, as well as our sometimes extreme cold periods.

This Oxalis or Shamrock plant has been in this same pot for about eight years.  By the end of summer, the leaves are bedraggled, but the flowers look fresh.

This Coral Honeysuckle bush (Lonicera sempervirens L.) is only three years old.   It doesn’t look as well as it did in the spring, but there are flowers for the pollinators.  Another great performer.

The plant everyone loves to complain about is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex).  It’s an aggressive spreader.  But if there’s room for it, it is hardy to the extreme and will become an old standby .  This grouping started out as one single cutting that I took twenty years ago.

Personally, I love the color of the flowers.  They are not shy about blooming.  So it has its pluses.  Mexican Petunias are native to Mexico and further south.

“Calories are tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.”  unknown

Something Old, Something New…

Something old                                                                                                                      something new                                                                                                                    something borrowed                                                                                                            something blue                                                                                                              and a sixpence in her shoe

This expression is as old as the hills, but the article in St. James Magazine in 1873 was the first known printed version.  This advice was to brides and what they should add to their attire on their wedding day.

Although the meaning of these items differs according to how far back they can be traced, these are the ones given in 1873:  Something old –  honor family and tradition; something new –  couple’s future;  something borrowed – happiness;  something blue -purity and love;  and sixpence – wish for prosperity and wealth.What does a wedding ditty have to do with gardening?  Just my way of trying to do something different.

There are lots of plants I could have chosen for “something old” but this Golden Lead Ball Tree (Leguminosae Leucaena retusa) is blooming now and has been in our yard for about 10 years.   The scruffy, twisted appearance of this small tree seems appropriate for its native environment – the wild, windy barren land of West Texas.

Right now its covered with dozens of seed pods.  They burst and drop the seeds.  However, there have been no new trees as a result.  Seeds must need scarification to germinate.

The beauty of this small multiple trunk tree shows up in the round, fuzzy bright yellow balls that appear from spring to fall depending on rain and temperature.

Something new is this gorgeous Toad Lily (Tricyrtis).  It’s a native to several countries in Asia; it prefers slightly shady and acidic conditions.  Therefore, I keep mine in a pot with loose, rich soil.

I bought it two to three years ago.  It finally bloomed.  Hooray.

This picture from the internet shows the flower structure a little better than my picture.

Something borrowed:  Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum x ‘Herbstfreude) .  Years and years ago, I took a cutting from one of my mother’s plants.  So I guess I “borrowed” it.

This sedum blooms in the fall with these wonderful puffy clusters of pink star-shaped flowers.  This succulent is winter hardy, even in a container.  Mine are in bright, indirect light.

Yes.  I know I’m stretching my analogy, but here is my something blue.  Or maybe bluish.  Masses of this Aster can be seen in many autumn landscapes because it needs to be divided every 3 – 5 years.  Therefore, it’s a great pass-a-long plant.

Blue flowers are hard to find, but here’s a true blue from this internet picture of a Texas Bluebonnet.  Super Wow!

And a sixpence in her shoe…  Sixpence was used in England from 1551 – 1967.  So maybe a penny in her shoe.  An article addressing this old rhyme and converting it for modern day brides is interesting.

Just tried to combine two passions of mine – history and plants.  Sorry for all the internet pictures.  That’s different from my usual blogs.

Thanks for bearing with me.  Hope you’re getting to enjoy some of the things you enjoy.

“History is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul.”  Lord Acton

Ain’t Autumn Grand

Cool temps in autumn don’t bring the orange and yellow of fall foliage here, but they do bring the bright colors of flowers.  Roses rebloom, other flowers increase in number, and some newcomers shine this time of the year.

Intricate flowers of the Purple Passion Vine or Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) deserve a close inspection to see their uniqueness and beauty.  Zebra Longwing caterpillars and Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Notice the other little flower intruding in this space.  It’s the native Morning Glory vine, which pops up everywhere and covers any surface where it’s tendrils can cling.  This vine is an aggravating, aggressive irritant in the yard.  Okay, it’s quaint growing on barbed wire out in the field, but mostly it grows in cultivated areas.

Cooler weather brings flowers galore on Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus-arboreus-var-drummondii).  What a wonderful Texas native perennial with its bright red unusual flowers and hardy in clay, rocky soil.  Glorious.

After other sunflowers have shriveled up, Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) wave their bright yellow faces in the air.  I don’t know if this actually grows in swampy areas, but it’s very drought tolerant here in our clay soil.

Jackmanii Clematis (Clematis x jackmani) is named after an English nurseryman who introduced this cultivar in 1862.  Great performer here in dry upper Central Texas.

Last year a small bush with spiky stems appeared in this bed.  I thought it was interesting and decided to leave it.  Boy, am I glad I did.

That little bush grew up into this Gayfeather.  This is not the type of Gayfeather seen in the fields in this area.  The local Gayfeather is one stem standing in a group of other single stems.  So I’m not sure of its variety or how it got here.

Bees are enjoying it.

A migrating Monarch stopped by for a snack.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this blog.  Hope you’re having a wonderful fall.

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building.”   Bono

Still Blooming

Even the plants are tired and weary after a blazing hot summer.  But some hardy souls are still blooming.

Love Henry Duelberg Sage.  The white in the front is actually his wife, Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’).  The deep purple one is his namesake.  Found on two grave sites, the plant names honor them.

These perennials bloom from spring to winter.  I have them in pots and in the ground scattered around the yard.  Can’t have too much of a good thing.  They are a Texas native and a treasure.

Even though Rock Rose (Cistus x canescens) is native to the Mediterranean area, we Texans like to claim it as our own.  It is a great dependable perennial.  I love to look out in the morning and see those little pink flowers greeting me with a new day.

In a new flower bed, we planted three rose bushes, some small plants, and some bulbs.  Immediately, armadillos began to dig up the bulbs.  So we put up wire barriers, which have now been removed, and some large stones around the bed to discourage those little buggers.

Then I planted a few small annual Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) hoping to make it more difficult to get into the soil.  Boy, did they grow and cover everything.  Now I hope the few small plants will survive with no sun.  At least, gardening is a learning experience and an adventure.

It seems to take Bougainvillea forever to start blooming.  The gorgeous fuchsia-colored brackets aren’t the flowers.  The tiny white centers are the flowers.  In its own good time, it decides to put on a fantastic show.  Some fertilizer specifically for Bougainvillea helps.

This is definitely a zone 9 or hotter plant, so it has to go inside when the temperatures drop below 50.  Cut off all the long branches.  This makes it easier to carry and will help with new growth and blooming in the spring.

One of the few annuals I replace every year is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).  It doesn’t reseed and even our mild winters are too cold.  But it adds movement and grace to the landscape.

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be.”  unknown

Utility Areas

Most all houses have them – those areas where gardening tools are stored or where the nitty gritty of potting, etc. are done.  Sometimes they’re screened off or hidden behind large shrubs, especially in towns or cities.

In the country, sometimes those storage places are placed at the edge of a yard or some distance from the house.

We have two identical sheds built at different times that serve gardening functions.  To make them somewhat a part of the landscape, there are some container plants around them.

Shown on the left is a pot of Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea) and Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) on the right.  Both of these are favorites because the color is bold, and both are so reliable.

Henry Duelberg, also known as Mealy Sage, is a hardy Texas native perennial.  Gomphrena, also known as Rio Grande globe amaranth, is an annual but reseeds freely.

The area around the sheds is bare ground.  On both sides of the concrete entrance to this shed, Gomphrena came up as volunteers.  The wind or birds brought the seeds from a flowerbed in the yard.

The Gomphrena has flourished here better than in the yard.  Obviously, their preference is for less water.

Several pots are displayed around the sheds.  Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetiiis) is growing in the center pot.

Blue Potato Bush or Paraguay Nightshade is an evergreen in South America.

Here, it’s proven to be a good perennial, even in a pot.  If the winter temps drop past the teens, that might not be the case.

Firebush (Hamelia patens) really is a tropical that has to be carried into the shed in the winter.  It can survive in lower Texas and never looks as lush here as it does there.

White flowered Rose Moss with White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) in a pot provides a nice blend of both plants.

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.  True power is sitting back and observing things with logic.  True power is restraint.  If words control you, that means every else can control you.  Breathe and allow things to pass.”  Warren Buffet

Surprise, Surprise

Not only have we had rains, but cool, crisp temperatures have been welcomed.  It’s way earlier than usual for below 80’s temps.  Gone were shorts and tee shirts.  Low 50 degrees brought out jackets and jeans.

Of course, that didn’t last.  Today, it’s 85.  There still some flowers to enjoy in late summer.

Appropriately named Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) is in full bloom.  This vine was brought to the US in the late 1800’s from Asia.  It has naturalized in the eastern states and is considered invasive in places that get lots of rain.  Not here.

The foliage is looking chloric this year.  Maybe some iron should be added in the spring.

One of its characteristics is the strong, sweet aroma that permeates a large area.

To be manageable, it must be cut back to the ground in the winter.  Growing quickly in the spring, the foliage will soon cover the trellis again.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) blooms in late August.  It’s considered a tropical plant but does well here if planted in a protected area.  Beautiful petite flowers cluster on arching branches.

Schoolhouse Lily or Oxblood Lily (Rhodophiala bifida) has never done really well for me.  Their bold red color exists for about a week.  One of those “it’s here – it’s gone” experiences.

South African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis) thrive in our heat, but are only cold hardy done to 20 degrees.  So we transfer it to the shed for the winter.  It’s a succulent with the grass like structure storing water.

Rose Moss or purslane (Rhodobryum roseum) is an underused plant.  An inexpensive plant that can be put directly in the ground here.  It dies back when it freezes and will grow back in the spring.  There are lots of colors available.

It’s a super easy plant that doesn’t need much water.  In fact, it doesn’t do well in standing water, so the soil needs to drain well.

Since autumn is almost here, it’s time to start planting.   Autumn is the optimal time because plants’ roots will grow all winter and be somewhat established before summer temperatures arrive.

“Fall is summer’s flamboyant farewell.”  A.A. Fitzwilliam