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

Hip, Hip, Hooray

Blessings falling from heaven – 3 inches of rain.  Relief from heat and scorching sun.

This pot of Moon Flower or Jimsomweed (Datura stramonium) sits under a Chinese Pistache tree, so it’s shady most of the day.  It just keeps blooming and blooming.

One of the best things about Moon Flowers is that they produce hard seed pods with a generous amount of seeds.  If they drop off where another plant is desired, just leave them there.  Then gather the remaining pods, but watch out for the sharp points on them.

I usually put them in a uncovered container and take them inside for the winter.  Then in the spring, the pods will start to disintegrate.  Using a knife, the seeds can be scraped out.  Plant some seeds and have instant pass-a-long plants or just share the seeds.

Texas Purple Sage or Texas Ranger Sage (Leucophyllum freutescens) only blooms after rains.  This shrub is native to northern Mexico, New Mexico and the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas.

The pale colored flowers only last a few days, so the beauty is shortlived.

Most roses don’t bloom during really hot weather.  Belinda’s Dream blooms off and on from early spring until the first frost.  It doesn’t bloom heavily during the hottest days but is one of the hardiest rose bushes for our area.

Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) is a native that isn’t showy until it blooms at the end of the summer.  Most of the time, it doesn’t look like much.  That’s why it’s at the back of the yard.

Then it rains and voila:  flowers and bees.

It’s flowers are fragrant and draw lots of bees.

Tropical Hibiscus may not seem worth the trouble in the center of Texas, since it has to be taken inside during the winter.  The flowers on the previous one I had were prettier than this one.  But it had been in the pot for about 14 years and was root bound.  I think I found the other one in San Angelo.

Old fashioned Geraniums were purchased at a local club plant sale 13 years ago.  They had come from someone’s grandmother in East Texas.  Each fall, I cut off some branches and root them so I’ll have some plants the following spring.

Autumn is coming – a great time to plant.

“If you are going anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.”  Roald Dahl

“Let There Be Light”

Have you ever thought about how important light is to living things?  For some reason, probably the fact that we live where the sunlight is so bright and strong, I’ve been pondering about how the correct amount of light is needed for each plant.

Indirect light is needed for many of my pot plants because direct sun burns them to a crisp.  The strong, thorny stems of Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) make it look like it could survive out in the sun.  And it probably could in some areas, but not here.

The small flower clusters grow on a small stem at the end of the branches.  The flowers last for weeks.  Great to look at but handle carefully.  I use tongs to move any stems I cut off to propagate.

Some varieties of Coleus that have been developed in the last few years are purported to do well in full sun.  I’m just skeptical about that and put them in filtered light.

These are two of my favorite types of Coleus.  These both survived last winter in the shed, but the curly kind didn’t do as well as I had hoped.  One noted horticulturist says there is no need to overwinter some types of plants.  Just buy new ones in the spring.

My philosophy is that it’s worth it to try.  Then in the spring, buy other plants that I haven’t tried before.

Bouganvillea thrives in the heat and sun.  In fact, it seems that it takes forever to bloom in the summer.  I fertilize it and water it frequently so that it will bloom.  The bright, colorful blooms are gorgeous.

Eve’s Necklace (Sophora affinis) is a small ornamental tree that grows as an understory tree in the wild.  It’s native to Central Texas.  This one is about 6 years old and so far, it’s done well out in full sun.

The strings of seed pods that look like black pearls form in the summertime.

One morning I got really excited because it looked like rain.  Even a rainbow in the clouds indicated moisture.  But alas, the overcast sky was gone by late morning, and it proved to be another dry day.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)  is another late summer bloomer.  This area receives last morning filtered sun.

They are native to China but have naturalized in the US.  They are edible with a mild flavor.  They were given to me, but I haven’t eaten any.  Just like their looks.

Hooray.  The berries on the American Beauty Berry plant are starting to change color.  The berries will last until a hard freeze.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

“Thoughtfulness is to a friendship what sunshine is to a garden.”  unknown

A Little Rain, Please

A brief shower does wonders for the land and for our morale.  We had two quick rains within a week.  Both of them together did not add up to an inch.  But as a result of a little rain, the temperatures are cooler and water from the sky perks everything up.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is drooping a little from the heat and isn’t blooming as much as earlier.   It’s native to southeastern US and to Texas.  One of it’s other names is Texas Mallow.  It’s a hardy perennial, even in our clay soil.

It looks like it would be difficult to get nectar from the tight blooms, but bees manage very well.

The plant dies down to the ground in the winter.  In the spring, it’s a beauty.

This Prairie Sage was planted 6 years ago, and I don’t remember where I got it.  It may be Artemisia ludoviciana, but it doesn’t look like the pictures I found on the internet.

It does spread by rhizomes but not aggressively.  Its lacy look provides a nice silvery accent in the yard.

After being in full sun all summer, these Purple Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum”) have lost their purple color in the plumes and foliage.

I don’t buy many annuals but consider these worth the cost.  These came in small pots.  It’s interesting that the far one did not grow as tall or full as they usually do.

This metal Roadrunner is stuck into the ground in front of a concrete planner.  Metalbird company started in New Zealand, but has an American branch.

Ixora is a tropical plant from Asia.  I’ve had one in a pot for about 18 years, which has become pretty root bound.  So I purchased another small plant.

The flowers are so pretty.  In Asia it’s grown in full sun, but here in Texas, my pots receive some sun, but not all day.  Our Death Star tends to burn leaves.

Purple Shamrock Plant or Oxalis (Oxalis regnellii) is also called Wood Sorrel.  It’s looking pretty sad at the end of the season.  The flowers are pale pink.  This one has been in this pot for many, many years and should probably be repotted into a larger pot.

Mine gets filtered light and is taken inside during the winter.  The green leafed Oxalis is considered a weed by some people, especially in the lawn.  I don’t think I would mind that.

Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is another plant that needs an upgrade in pot size.  Native to South Africa, it can grow to be a large 10 ft. tall shrub there.  I’ve tried it in full sun but seems to do better in filtered or morning light.

Hope you are getting some relief from the summer heat.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  E. B. White

Discouraged by Summer?

Weary of summer?  I certainly am.  Every year the crispy plants and hot, hot temperatures make me question why I live in upper central Texas.  But then in winter, it all feels worth it.

Reliable perennials make gardening easier.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) doesn’t mind the heat as much as I do.  Being in the shade helps.

It just keeps on blooming and stretching out with stems growing longer and longer. It is a good ground cover and so easy to root in water.  So, I just share it with anyone who wants it.

I’ve heard the flowers called Moses in a basket.  This picture doesn’t show it, but it does look like the flower is nestled in a small little boat.

Year after year, Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) has come back in the same pot.  The plant has been in this pot for about 20 years.  Even though it’s called a fern, it is not a true fern.  It’s in the family of lilies and tulips.

Semi-shade or just morning sun makes this a happy camper.

And every year, tiny little flowers bloom.  These flowers turn into red berries that contain the seeds.

Obedience Plant or False Dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana) doesn’t even begin to bloom until August.  This year it looks sparse.  I think a vine growing in it has hindered its success.

Greggii Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii)  just keeps on giving.  The butterflies continue to land there and feed away.  A must-have plant for gardeners desiring butterflies.

I’ll end with this reminder for us all:

“When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Count Your Many Blessings hymn

Mishmash

Still hot and dry – typical summer here.  However, we’re blessed with some plants that thrive in hot weather.

A pot of annual Periwinkles brighten a mostly shady spot.  Behind it is a pot of Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus).

White Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) draws lots of butterflies.

Most of these are Queens.

This is not a pretty picture, but its purpose is to illustrate how important it is to plant trees properly.  The root flare is correct.

This is a quote from the Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett, from a Dallas newspaper article:

“Truth is – the single most important condition for a tree’s health is being planted high with the root flare dramatically exposed. This simple factor reduces stress in trees and basically eliminates pest problems including powdery mildew, black sooty mold, aphids, white scale insects, borers and other insect pests and diseases.”

However, this one is planted too low.

“A tree’s flare being covered by anything is unnatural and unhealthy. Root flares (trunk flares might be a more appropriate term) are transition zones and more part of the trunks than roots. When properly exposed they are able to breathe. When covered by ground covers and vines or any kind of soil or mulch – including gravel or stones – the flare cannot breathe properly, stress sets in and pest problems result. The reason crape myrtles aren’t dying all around is that they are incredibly tough and can tolerate the abuse to a degree. However, crape myrtles planted too deeply will have to be treated for pests more often, grow slower and flower less.”

Could be the reason this particular Crape Myrtle isn’t blooming well.

Although they’re not seen in this picture, hummingbirds and bees have been dancing in this Desert Bubba Willow (Chilopsis linearis) .  Just flitting from flower to flower enjoying the sweet nectar.

Pollinators of all sorts dine at this Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii).

Gardening is fun, but it’s also hard work.  Knowing the tricks of the trade helps us be a success.  One way to do this is to take advantage of gardening videos on line.  With the current situation, we’ll home more, so we can use that time to learn.  I enjoy them all, but it’s most helpful to find those filmed in your own area or state.

“My barn has burned down, and now I can see the moon”   Japanese haiku

Crape Myrtles

In the summertime, Crape Myrtles are the ornamental tree or shrub for the south.  Many different spellings of Crape Myrtles seem to be acceptable.

In 2006, the year after we moved here, we planted three Dynamite Crape Myrtles.  These were my first ever Crape Myrtles.

This variety was chosen because I wanted a deep red bloom.  It’s interesting that some are actually deep red but others are a lighter pinkish.

Crape Myrtles survive both droughts and humility making it perfect for the damper areas of the deep south and the long periods without rain here in hot, dry Texas.

This corner of the yard has 2 Crape Myrtles of two different varieties.

Planted in 2012, Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is the tallest of all Crape Myrtle.  They can grow to 30′ tall.

The two shorter trees are Centennial Spirit Crapemyrtle (Lagerstoemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’) which were planted in 2015.  I actually went looking for this specific Crape Myrtle and found them in the Metroplex.

Imagine my disappointment at their performance.  They have grown a little taller, but hardly ever bloom.  When they do bloom, it’s just a few little flowers.

A good place to see different varieties of Crape Myrtles is McKinney, Texas, which calls itself the the Crape Myrtle Capitol of Texas.

Other lists are available one-line.

This Black Diamond Crapemyrtle was planted in 2016.  The foliage started out black, but new branches have reverted to green leaves.  Even though it’s in a flowerbed, it gets full sun.  That’s essential for Crapemyrtles.

In another bed, Victor Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Victor’) was planted in 2013. Unfortunately, some other shrubs around it have grown really tall and full.  So, they crowd out the sunlight.  There’s a few blooms each year.  The roots are intertwined with other shrubs, so it can’t be removed.  Poor planning on my part.

Now, to my very favorite Crape Myrtle – “Alamo Fire” Red Crepe Myrtle, which was planted in 2016.  Immediately it began to bloom.

The blooms are so large and gorgeous.

We bought three at a flower show in San Antonio.  The guy selling them was a friend of the hybridizer.  I don’t think they’ve ever gone on the market.  And they were so cheap.  He tried to get me to buy more, but I didn’t think I had room.

Yes, I’ve kicked myself many times since then.

This year I found a small pot of Barista Crapemyrtle.  It’s doing amazing well and grown to about 8 inches and is already blooming.

The branches should be trimmed a little in late winter since they bloom on new growth.  But they should never be chopped off at the top.  Don’t commit ‘Crepe Murder.’  it’s not only wrong in Charlotte, it’s against the law.  Maybe we need that law in Texas.

“Who is the happiest of men?  He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even though t’were his own.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Pink Hues

Summertime’s heat and strong sun has taken a toll on plants.  It’s hard to keep everything watered.

However, these climbing rose bushes are hardy.

This one with pale pink flowers is an old fashioned or antique rose.

Crinums are some hardy bulbs.  They thrive in the southern part of the US.

Ellen Bosanquet Crinum Lilies grow from large bulbs that multiply freely.  Their deep, rich color is spectacular.  No care needed.  Just a little water, but bulbs have survived for years in abandoned home sites.

Perennial Dianthus ‘Raspberry Surprise’ is a joy to see each spring.  They also bloom all summer but do better in partial shade.

Even though this is a Texas Purple Sage, the flowers look more pink than purple to me.  It’s also called Texas Barometer Bush and Texas Silverleaf (Leucophyllum frutescens).  Some bushes do have a true purple color flower.

This sage can survive dry desert conditions, but It only blooms after a rain shower.  We had a quick one a few weeks ago.

When plants come up that I don’t recognize, it’s a mystery.  Maybe it’s my memory, but sometimes I’m sure that I did not plant that particular plant.

For instance, this flower growing close to the ground.  For weeks, I watched the deep dark purple foliage trying to guess what it was.  Then, voila, one morning this gorgeous flower appeared.

Certainly, it was a nice surprise but I like to put a name with a plant.  It certainly looks like a Rose Mallow.  An internet search makes me think that it’s a Hibiscus ‘Dark Mystery’ rose mallow.

Another surprise in this same flowerbed.  To the left are leaves from a Amaryllis.  At first I thought that’s what this was, but it’s definitely too hot for that, and there’s no foliage.

So I think it’s a Naked Lady.  A little research showed it to be a Naked Lady or Surprise Lily (Amaryllis Belladonna).  Aptly named.  The foliage dies and then the stem grows.  They bloom in the summer.  Mystery solved.  Since it’s a bulb, I guess I did plant it.  Crazy.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.  It just blooms.” unknown

Native and Adapted Plants

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas A&M Extension Agents have been on a mission for years.  They have been preaching about the benefits of native plants.  They also add that many plants have adapted well to our climate.

Native plants are winter hardy, evergreen, or spread seeds.  So that means they survive to grow and bloom in season.  Native also means that it grows naturally in your area.  However, many natives that are not in your immediate vicinity do well in your climate.

Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) can be seen occasionally in our pastures.  But they are much more prolific further south.  But they survive our winters.

These look like tulips, but they open up more later in the morning.

Both of these plants were bought at the same time, but one flower is a deeper purple than the other one.  I’ve had both of these for several years.  Their seeds have not produced other plants.  Mystery.

There are vastly different regions in Texas.  Rainfall varies from 54 inches annual average in the east to 10 inches in the west.  Soils range from acidic to alkaline and from sand to clay to caliche to loam.  Winter temperatures, plus rainfall, and soils make native plants area specific.  Sometimes, I try to stretch it, but end up having too many pot plants to carry inside.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dudecandra) is one of those natives that pops up all over the yard.

A friend gave me seeds years ago.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads by underground rhizomes, but it’s fairly slow.  This has been here 10 or more years.

It’s surprising how well this thin leafed plant does in full sun or shade.

Love the turban flowers.

Iron Weed ((Veronia baldwinii fasciculata) seeds were given to me about 5 years ago.  So it also spreads slowly.

The blooms don’t last a long time.  They do grow in the ditches not too far away.

Sages are great performers in our area.  I have a flower bed full of Henry Duelburg Salvia or Mealycup Sage (Saliva farinacea).  The wind blew some seeds into a field nearby, so I dug them up and put them in several pots.  Some were taken to a club plant sale.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a Texas native.  However, the ones I’ve noticed around here are not as large as the ones I have bought.  Pollinators love this plant.

Passion Vine is also a Texas native.  Don’t think they grow naturally in our area but are well-adapted.

It actually has a tropical look.

Gregg’ Mistflower, more commonly known as Blue Mistflower, (Conoclinium greggii) is a Texas native that grows gangbusters here.  To the left is Mexican Petunia that is so well adapted that it’s invasive.

One of the best plants to attract butterflies is Bluemist Flower.

There are many, many more Texas natives that do well in a home landscape.  If chosen carefully, they can be successful and bring beauty to the yard.

”When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”  Chief Tecumseh