Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“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

Autumn White

We have been blessed by all the rain last week.  The ground is wet, plants are green (including abundant weeds), and the tanks (stock ponds) are gradually filling up.

The cultural ban on southern ladies wearing white after Labor Day has always been ridiculous.  It is totally ignored these days, except for a few older ladies in high society.

Anyway, the white flowers on this lovey lady are frilly and pretty.  I was told it is Society Garlic; but after some research, it could be chives or onions.

It’s really strange that this plant has been in the same pot about 7 years and this is the first time it has bloomed.  The individual flowers look a lot like Sweet Autumn Clematis.

Moon Flowers or Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) have bloomed all through the summer and continues during the fall.  It is a poisonous night-bloomer found in hotter areas of the US and in northern Mexico

It has lots of common names:  moon flowers, thorn apple, moon lily, moon flower, Indian apple, angel’s trumpet, devil’s trumpet, tolguacha, locoweed and Jimson weed.

Texas Kidneywood Tree are slow growers but drought tolerant, which is an important trait here.

Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) is a native shrub that blooms intermittently from April to October.  The recent rains have increased the amount of flowers that grow in an upright cluster like the native Vitex.

It does well in rocky limestone soil, which is perfect here.  In the same family as acacias and mimosas, it lacks the thorns.  Another plus is that it attracts pollinators.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata) is in full bloom with its strong vanilla scent.

Talk about flaunting white.  This vine isn’t picky about soil.  It just needs good drainage and is a beautiful sight.

Several websites claim that it is invasive, but that has not been a problem for me.  Its mass of flowers probably does produce lots of seeds, but maybe the soil is too hard here.

Hope your weather is fall-like with cooler temperatures.

“You know you’re getting old when you barely do anything all day, but still need to take a nap to continue to barely do anything.” unknown author

Shade Lovers

Finding shady areas for plants can be a challenge if you live where the sun glares down with full force for months at a time.  Shade doesn’t have to be a totally dark area, but one where there is no direct sunlight.

In my case, that means covered porches or close to the trunks of large trees.  My porch areas can look messy because I also root many plants there.  Here are Coleuses, Old fashioned Geraniums, and an Aloe Vera.

Coleus may seem like an old lady plant; since I’m an old lady and it’s only been a favorite the last couple of years, that fits.  But it brings color in areas where flowers won’t bloom.

This one came from a cutting about four years ago.  Coleuses root easily in water and are great pass-along plants.

The lime green ones really brighten up a shady place.

This is an attempt at a fairy garden.  Problem is:  when you water, pebbles and other small articles tend to wash away or fall over.  Variegated Ice Plant has grown like wildfire.

A professional gardener for a public garden made the statement that neatness is more important than what you plant.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  And, let’s face it, it’s difficult to keep a garden weeded and cleared of debris when you don’t have a staff.  That’s my excuse.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) branches bend over and grow crookedly.  This one will definitely have to be cut back before carrying it into the shed for winter.  Maybe some friends would like a cutting?

The thorns are vicious.  This one came from a cutting about six or seven years ago.  Several cuttings have been made from the original planting and propagated and given away.

This was bought at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  It can’t take our cold winters, like many of the other plants shown in this post.  It also has sharp thorns.  I keep telling myself to toss it, but here it is after two years.

These three pots of plants have been here for years and years.  The Red Apple Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia) on the left and the Autumn Joy Sedum are perennial, and thankfully do not have to be toted into the shed for the winter.  These are succulents, so broken stems can be planted directly into potting soil.

The Purple Oxalis  is not cold hardy.

The Sedum will put on a show with pink flower clusters soon.

Pale pink flowers contrast nicely with the purple leaves of Oxalis, which is in the wood-sorrel family Oxalidaceae.

African Blue Basil  (Ocimum kilimandscharicum) is another new favorite.  The smell is wonderful.  It does not reseed but can be propagated with cuttings rooted in water.

To the left is another Autumn Joy Sedum, Kalanche on the right, and Asparagus Fern in the back.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) is an extremely hardy perennial ground cover.  As demonstrated by this picture, it spreads rapidly and should be contained.  This flowerbed is surrounded by a porch and a sidewalk on two sides.

The light pink flowers always show up white in my pictures.  The stems can be broken or cut and rooted in water.  Another good pass-along plant.

“You can lead a man to congress, but you can’t make him think.”  Milton Berle

Heat Lovers

As the summer drags it feet and lingers, the sun bakes plants.  And often there’s no relief of cooler temperatures at night.  So it’s totally amazing that some plants do so well through our long, hot summers.

Normally, I’m too chintzy to invest in annals.  But Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) finally lured me to buy a couple of them.  Plus, I had just the spot for them.

Our winter temperatures are too cold for them, and they don’t reseed.  But they are drought tolerant, can take the sun, and last for months.  The wind creates beautiful movement of their feathers.  So I’m sold.  Love them.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) is a longtime favorite that always provides late summer blooms.  Beauty just drips off its branches.

With clusters of velvet-looking deep purple flowers, each petal is edged in white.

I think it surprises some people that roses do so well in our heat.  To me, roses conjure up England with its misty days.  So when I first tried them, I was leary.  What a pleasant surprise.

This particular bush is Brilliant Veranda by Kordes.  In a picture, the sun fades out their startling bright color.  This is a small bush that does well in containers and has been in a pot for two years.

Abraham Darby is hardy up to zone 11, so it likes heat.  It was planted this spring.  It’s a David Austin rose named after the man who build the first iron bridge.

I’ve gone rather ga-ga over roses.  Can’t seem to get enough of them.

Caryopteris, Blue Mist Shrub, or Blue Beard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) is drought tolerant, is bothered by few pests, and is hardy enough to make it through our extremely low temperatures last winter.  Cold hardy zones 5 – 9.

It’s obvious why it’s called Blue Mist Shrub because it looks so much like the Gregg’s Blue Mist flowers.  Stats say it will remain a compact small shrub: 3 – 4 ft. wide and tall.  So far, it’s been great.

It’s great to have plants that endure the summer heat.  They provide a reason to go out into the sunlight.

“Well done is better than well said.”  Benjamin Franklin

Foe or Friend?

Weeds appear in every gardening space.  At least, I know they pop up here regularly.  Some are unwelcome guests.  Others, not at all.  The good thing is that you get to choose who stays and who goes.

This plant came up in a pot.  A gift from a bird probably.  Since I didn’t recognize it, I decided to wait and see how it developed.

Clusters of green berries eventually turned red.

Those opened into tiny pretty flowers.  So I turned to a friend to identify the plant.  It’s Poke, Pokeweed or Poke Salad (Phytolacca americana).  Flowers and fruits are toxic.  The leaves can be eaten but must be processed properly.

A little research reveals that they grow quite large.  So at the end of the summer, this one will be pulled up.  It’s actually quite pretty at this stage, but I don’t want it taking over.

After a really good rain (praise and thanksgiving for that), these Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) appeared in the fields and yard.  Also known as Zephyr or Fairy Lily, they are native to the U.S.  Cultivated species with white, yellow or pink flowers are available for purchase.

Delicate pure white flowers dot the landscape for a few days as a reminder of the blessings of rain.

The tall flower in the center is Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata).

Pretty flowers grow at the top of the stems.  When the stems are broken, white sticky sap oozes out.

Unless these appear in a large vacant area, it’s best to allow only a few to grow because they form large colonies as they reseed.  Those colonies are lovely to see out in the pastures.

These unknown plants also multiple quickly but are easy to pull up.  The stems are skeletal looking with thin leaves.  Could be a wild aster.

This is a weed that I actually planted because a friend gave me seeds she had gathered in a field.  The seed pods are almost to open now.  Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is also known as Dwarf Cleome.

Clammy Weed multiplies aggressively; the wind scatters the seed all over the yard, so they come up here and there and not in a large clump.  It would be easy to eradicate them completely.

So what is the difference between a weed and a wildflower?  Mostly, it’s which ones strike your fancy.  Some might seem pretty and desirable and others bothersome because they have sharp thorns on them, push out other plants, or are just ugly.  They all are somewhat aggressive.  That’s the only way they can survive in the wild.

Sometimes it seems like I spend all my time getting rid of the ones that are very undesirable.  So I remind myself to just enjoy the pretty ones.

“All gardeners need to know when to accept something wonderful and unexpected, taking no credit except for letting it be.”  Allen Lacy

Hardy and a Surprise

Plants that stand up to weather and time are excellent investments.

This Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is about 11 years old and continues to thrive in its small confined place.

It’s a large shrub with clusters of unusual yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) has been another survivor.  It’s also about 11 years old.

Although it’s a tropical plant, it can survive here if it’s planted in a place protected from north winds.  So it’s not a shoo-in for our area.

Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) is the best plant to attract Queen butterflies.  The flowers themselves are unimpressive, but they definitely provide the needed nectar.

If you plant them, they will come.  And stay for the duration until winter.

Always a pleasure to look out the window and see the flurry of activity on these flowers.

Also very hardy is a large variety of weeds that are tenacious.  It’s a constant struggle to keep them out of the flowerbeds.  But that’s to be expected since we live in the middle of pastures.

Pink Surprise Lily or Naked Lady (Lycoris squamigera) was definitely a surprise for me this year.  According to my records, the bulb was planted 4 years ago and has never bloomed before.

At zone 8a, we’re out of its normal range.  The optimum zones are 6a to 7b.  When it was planted, the zone maps put our area at 7b.  Revised maps show we’re in a hotter zone.

I’ve since learned that the best growing conditions include a cold, long winter.  Since we did have colder temperatures and a later spring, I guess that explains why it finally bloomed.  Also, this lily prefers a dry, hot summer.  Voila.  We have that in spades.

The leaves appear first and die; then the naked stem with flowers appear.

Iron Weed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a native that grows in bar ditches and bloom with some moisture.  They can be gangly growing 3 ft. tall with flowers right at the top of the stem.  Their best feature is the purple color of the flowers.

I got a fistful of seeds from a friend about 4 years ago.  The plants reseed and will spread out.

“Respect old people.  They graduated high school without Google or Wikipedia.”  unknown

In the Good Old Summertime

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.”

This song comes from the Tin Pan Alley group of New York City music publishers and songwriters that started in 1885 and went through the early 1900’s.  It was originally the name for a specific area in the Flower District of Manhattan.

To me, the good old summertime means what’s happening in my yard because of the heat and lack of rain.

These are the small palm tree looking stalks that forecast the blooming of Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius).  In spite of the name, they are drought tolerant.  The stalks will reach 7 feet with small sunflowers by the end of August.

Reliable Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), a Texas native, continues to flower with their cute little turbans.  It grows well in most parts of the state in sun or shade.

A great plant for our super hot summers.

There are two birds that we can count on every summer:  Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.  The creation on top of this Hummingbird feeder is the work of Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallows are pretty birds that look for a ledge where they build a nest of mud, grasses, twigs, etc.  The birds stand on these ledges and poop all over whatever is beneath that ledge.  They also return to the same nesting area each year.  This includes their young as adults.  Swooping in low, they almost run into your head.

Because the population had increased so much and nested under our covered front and back patios, there was always a mess on the floor.  So, we hired a carpenter to eliminate the ledges.

Although they are fewer in number this year, they now build nests on the brick walls and anything up high like where this feeder was hanging.

What a mess to clean up.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial bush that stands up to the heat.  It’s pale color isn’t too showy, but the scent of its foliage is wonderful.  The bees also love it.

The perennial Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) does well in the heat if it’s watered.

Bees flock to its small flowers.

“There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air.”  Peter Mayle

Summer White

Generally, brightly colored flowers are my first choice for the yard.  However, white ones add sophistication and calm in the garden.

This Moon Flower, Thorn-apple, or Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii Regel) usually produces pure white flowers.  This one has a slight pinkish tinge.  Not sure why.  This is a shady area most of the day with some early morning light.

Please ignore the clutter below the flower.

Datura is a narcotic and if ingested, could be lethal.

This Butterfly plant is in a container.  It seems to have done better in the heat than the ones in a flowerbed.  It could be because I’m more conscientious about watering potted plants because I’m afraid they will dry out quickly.

White Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) is a pollinator magnet, plus it looks lovely swaying in the wind.  Note the visitor in the upper right corner of picture.

This Purple Datura actually looks white with a hint of purple along the edges of the petals.  Pictures on the internet show some with a deep purple color.  The Purple Datura originates several places in Asia.

The leaves also differ from the white Datura.

Daturas are annals that have large, prickly seeds that drop to the ground.  If conditions are good, a new plant will grow.  Or the seeds can be saved to start new plants.

Night bloomers, so early morning is the time to see their flowers.

Love the double petals.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia trachysperma) is in the Cleonmaceae family and has the look of the more popular Spider Flower or Cleome.

Seeds from Clammy Weed from a friend who is into natives.  Plant one and have a generous crop next year.

The plant’s height is about a foot tall.  Many consider it a weed, like the name.  And, it is definitely sticky or clammy.

One characteristic of the Southern Crinim Lily is the growth of the bulb to a large size and the multiplication of the bulb.  While it may be difficult to dig up, it’s a great pass-along plant that will be appreciated by the person receiving it.

The flowers tend to droop slightly.

There are conflicting views on the web – what?  Old views say that white clothes are cooler in the heat, while darker ones absorb the heat.  This view was practiced by the rich in the 18th and 19th century.

New views espouse that black is actually cooler because skin is hot in the summer and therefore reflects the heat back to the body from a white garment.

Anyway, white looks cool in the summer.  Just enjoy whichever floats your boat.

“It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight.  What untold wealth!”   Rabindranath Tagore

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