Storybook Sculptures

Abilene, Texas, calls itself Storybook Capital of the World.  Scattered around the downtown area are sculptures of characters from children’s books as well as various other sculptures.

I’m starting with my least favorite:  Dino Bob from the book Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.

Never heard of this book.

The Man in the Moon is represented by a moon up on a tall pole.

Also, unknown to me.  Don’t give up.  It gets better.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stands outside the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature building.

Everman Park, beside the renovated train depot, contains the Dr. Seuss Sculptures.  A nice job of landscaping this area uses hardy Texas plants, like the New Gold Lantana in the picture.  This lantana is a hybrid and makes a 6 to 8 foot ground cover.

Although this isn’t Dr. Seuss, it’s at the park entrance.  Santa Calls sculpture depicts three children who travel to the North Pole.  Santa sent a flying machine called Yuletide Flyer.The beloved Cat in the Hat turns a rainy day into unexpected fun for children.

Some  small Magnolia trees had blossoms.  It’s unusual to see Magnolias in Central Texas, but this is probably a Little Gem Magnolia, which is a late bloomer, smaller than most Magnolias, and survives in zones 5 – 9.

The Lorax speaks for the trees and warns of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.

Yurtle the Turtle, who claims to be the king of the pond, climbs on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon.  A good message to us all not to feel more important than others.

In spite of derogatory remarks in the news recently about Dr. Seuss, I think he had an important role.  He got many kids interested in reading and learning and did it in an extremely fun way.

The Grinch tries to sabotage Christmas in Whoville.

Another small Magnolia surrounded by Knockout Roses, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and a Boxwood hedge.  The roses may be Drift Roses, which are a type of Knockouts.

Russian Sage is a good choice for arid areas.  It has a lovely scent and is hardy.  It does spread, so these will become overcrowded at some point.

Sam, I am, encourages everyone to try Green Eggs and Ham.

In the second book to feature Horton, Horton Hears a Who, he once again becomes the protector of a helpless creature.  A small piece of dust that talks to Horton asks for help.  Even though he is ridiculed and harassed by the other animals, Horton states that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. SeussSave

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Flit, Flutter, Flap

Faster than the speed of light:  at least, that’s what it seems like when you’re trying to photograph flying creatures.

Although I’m definitely not knowledgeable about identifying butterflies, this is a type of Giant Swallowtail feeding on Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).

Flame Acanthus grows in poor rocky soil and in direct hot sun, so it’s great for our location.  It’s a perennial that does better if it is severely cut back in the early spring.  It starts to leaf out late in the spring, but from then until the first frost, it is covered with small tubular red flowers.

Here’s a Swallowtail on Obedient Plants (Physostegia virginiana).  Obedient Plants, native to North America, freely reseed, so they spread easily.

Another Black Swallowtail on Acanthus.

Queen Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) camp out on Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) all summer long.

They swarm the tiny powder puff flowers flitting from flower to flower.  If you want butterflies in your yard, Bluemist and Flame Acanthus will do the trick.

Some Dusty Miller is hanging over the Bluemist, but their meal is found in the Bluemist.

Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis) is common to the southwestern US.  Thanks, moth, for being perfectly still so I could get a picture.

A  Monarch (Danaus plexippus) stops on her journey to Mexico to enjoy the Bluemist Flowers.  Also known as the Milkweed Butterfly because that’s the only food source for their caterpillars.

Thankfully, the Monarch Butterflies aren’t as picky as their caterpillars.  This one enjoys Purple Asters.  Actually, it looks like two are feeding on the same flower.

This beauty – Pipevine Swallowtail or Blue Swallowtail (Battus philenor) adds color to the garden.

Detail is seen in this bright orange Dragonfly resting on a fence.

Giant Sulfurs or Cloudless Giant Sulfurs (Phoebis sennae) must love red flowers.  They have been a constant presence in our yard for a month.  This one is feasting on Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), the last one left from summer.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) attracts of Sulfurs.

Sulfurs are also fans of Flame Acanthus.

Other butterflies like this small one that I can’t identify are flitting here and there.

“Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  St. AugustineSave

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Fabulous Fall

A little rain and cooler weather does wonders for us all.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) is a zone 9a – 11 plant; therefore it’s a pot plant for me.  Even though it loves heat, it does much better here in a shady area.  Our blazing hot sun burns tender leaves.

Everything I’ve read indicates that it is a pollinator magnet, but I’ve never seen one on or near it.  It’s a conundrum.

Scented Geraniums also like the heat but wilt in direct sunlight.  This one is so pretty with an impressionist painting look.

Don’t have a clue what this plant is.  It’s in a pot, so I must have planted it.  Or maybe it’s one I brought from Mother’s house.

It has been outside all summer and only got berries on it a few weeks ago.  Those berries turned into these pretty clusters of miniature flowers.  Anyone know?  Please comment if you know.

After some harsh cold spells last winter, this large shrub was dead as a doornail.  Then, two little stems came up.  We cut the large branches and main trunk off.  The stump is in the lower right corner.

One of my all time favorite flowering bushes, Texas Flowering Senna (Senna corynbosa) is hopefully going to survive.  These are difficult to find since most nurseries don’t carry them.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), is also known as French Mulberry, American Mulberry, Spanish Mulberry, Bermuda Mulberry, Sour, and Sow-berry.  I much prefer Beautyberry because the vibrant neon color of the berries is astounding.

Of course, they don’t survive our winters but do well in a protected shed.

Autumn means pretty colorful leaves.  This red one was found in a dry creek bed.  I’m not sure what tree it’s from.

Just got this birdhouse and signs up recently.  My husband painted the signs, while I painted and decorated the birdhouse.  The pole stands at the edge of a bed of native orange Cannas.

The days are comfortably warm, but the sun is still bright.  Wonderful autumn days pull me outside to enjoy the relief from summer heat.

The flowers of this African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) bounce playfully when there is a breeze.

Not sure what kind of Purple Asters these are.  In the spring, I divided them and spread them out more.

Just love the bright cheeriness of them.

Ixora (Ixora coccinea) blooms from the time we bring it outside each spring and even retains some blossoms in the shed through the winter in the shed.  But near the end of summer, most flowers drop off.  Then magically, it blooms again.

A tropical shrub native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, it is also the national flower of Suriname.

Such a lovely color.

Hope you are enjoying autumn weather where you are.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L. M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables 

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Spring Fed River

While in San Angelo recently, we enjoyed strolling through a small park area bordering the Concho River.  The key to success in public park spaces is meeting the needs of local people and knowing what grows well in your area.

The sight of this spring fed river in dry West Texas always makes me feel good.

Although this area is beside a major road, it is quiet and peaceful.  The deep shade of what I think is Arizona Cypress (Cupressus Arizonica) is a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

A  soothing spot to while away an morning or afternoon.

Continuing our walk, we cross the river on the foot bridge.

The Concho River in West Texas seems like a strange place for a mermaid statue, but is actually appropriate since she is holding a Concho freshwater mussel that produces gorgeous pearls in many colors.  The pink one is probably the most well known, even from the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

The sculptor, Jayne Charless Beck, was a San Angelo resident artist who passed away in 1993.  After his death, this bronze casting of “The Pearl of the Concho” was donated to the city.

This memorial for 9/11 victims displays 2,996 flags for the victims.

A metal cross stands in the center of the memorial.

Several plantings of Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate) provide a coolness to the area.  It is native to South Africa and survives in zones 8 – 11.

This combo with Texas Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) contrasts the brightness of the yellow and the calming effect of the blue.

The draping of the Blue Plumbago’s long branches is an additional plus.

In the right zone, Plumbago is easy to grow.  Unfortunately, for me it is an annual and has to be grown in a pot.

Yellow Bells also require mild winters, but the problem can be solved with heavy mulching and some kind of cover over the roots.

Grass plantings are very popular.  This is Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) with an Autumn Salvia Greggii (Salvia greggii) in front.

Some consider Mexican Feather Grass to be invasive.  It has not been for me, but the top half of the plant should be cut off in winter to keep it from flopping and looking messy.

Salvia greggii should also be cut back severely in winter.  Otherwise, it becomes too leggy.  The species has several different flower colors.

I think this is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetumsetaceum ‘Rubrum’), which is hardy in zones 9 – 11.  It’s used as an annual in larger Texas cities.

Mugwort or Artemisia  (Artemisia vulgaris) placed in the middle of Mexican Feather Grass adds a lovely softness.

Salvia Greggii can be overused because of its hardiness, but this park has just a few scattered here and there.

One of my favorite ornamental trees or large bushes is Chaste Tree, Abraham’s balm,  Monk’s pepper or Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).  They are just so reliable for our dry areas, plus they have gorgeous purple flower clusters.  After the flowers die, the cluster of berries can be dried and used in arrangements.

Before turning around, we stopped outside of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts that we had previously visited a few weeks before this trip.

Potato Vine with Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and maybe a Bougainvillea that isn’t blooming.

Nothing is as refreshing as a walk through nature, even if it’s in the city or maybe, because it’s in the city.

“We always want the best man to win an election.  Unfortunately, he never  runs.”                   Will Rogers Save

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Everyday Gifts

Without sounding too pollyanna, I want to focus on the gifts we receive everyday that we often take for granted.  Mostly, we think of blessings like good health, a job we love, and a loving family as worthy of praise.  Stories of unexpected large sums of money given to people in need or stories of people who risk their lives to save others deservedly make the news.

But this post is about more subtle thoughtfulness such as when another car allows you to pull out in front of them or when a stranger smiles even when they’re busy or tired.  These gifts can easily be passed along to someone else.

Or we can just enjoy a rainy day if we live in an arid area or a sunny day if your home is in a frequent rain area.

In San Angelo a few weeks ago, I noticed pots and planters filled with plants in front of an antique mall.  There were lots of potato vines.  This one also has a Passion flower and maybe a small Turk’s Cap.

With extreme darkness and bright light beside each other, the setting is not ideal for photos.

What I appreciated was all the work involved in providing an attractive entry way and all along the side of the building.  I know it requires lots of time to keep pots watered in the extreme heat of West Texas.  Creating a pretty space for others to enjoy is a definitely a gift.

Also, I appreciated the artful placement of accessories among the plants.  Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) come in shades of chartreuse or purple.  Either color in a large grouping makes a big impact.

A Mother-of-Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) plant sits on the left of the bench.  It is so named because along the edge of each leaf is a row of plantlets that will drop and take root.  It is also known as Devil’s backbone, Alligator Plant or Mexican Hat Plant.  A succulent native to Madagascar, be wary of planting it where you don’t want it to spread.

To the right of that is African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens Orange), a heat loving plant.

A Knock Out Rose, more Potato Vine and maybe some Desert Rose.

This Austin stone planter filled with aloes has a nice crisp look.

Old tub filled with Potato Vine and White Guara or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri).

There must have been a sale on Potato Vine and Knock Out Roses.

Old wagons always make great containers for plants.

San Angelo is proud of the paintings on buildings that depict different parts of their heritage.

Not sure what this trash can is made of, but it’s definitely not a real anvil.

Items in front of an antique or ‘just used’ shop.

The store name is “Tossed and Found”.

Everytime I ooh and ahh over scenes like this, my husband says that I just like old, rusty junk.  That’s true.  Especially if a plant is plopped in or sitting on top of it.

A pot in front of a telephone pole creates a place for this Purple Passion Vine (Passiflora incarnata) to climb.  Two other common names seem really strange to me:  Maypop and Apricot Vine.

Gratitude for the small joys of life makes us happier and kinder.  My opinion.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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How Dry It Is

While the Gulf coast of Texas experienced horrendous flooding, the western and central part of the state were dry and dusty.  Here we’ve had 13 inches of rainfall this year, less than half of the average 27 inches.  We’re drier than even surrounding areas.  I suspect that’s due to the fact than our property is in a valley between two ridges.

Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is so hardy that some consider it invasive.  This has been here for about 11 years, and only two years ago did another one come up in the same flower bed about three feet from the parent plant.

The flower bed has drip line watering, so a voluntary in our hard clay dirt outside of the flower bed doesn’t seem likely.

The thin, narrow leaflets on the compound leaves that resemble Mesquite leaves means that there is little water evaporation, so it’s a great plant for our area.

A desert plant from South Africa, African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange African Bulbine’), doesn’t mind the heat.  It cannot take cold, so we’ve been lugging two pots of these into a shed each year for more years than I care to remember – probably 11 years.

The flowers aren’t showy but look nice blowing in the wind.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a prolific grower.  Also known as Virgin’s Bower and Japanese Clematis, it is such a vigorous plant that it must be cut back each winter.

This year the vine has suffered from chlorosis.  It’s one of those things I think of when I pass by it and forget later.  Just recently I read that the iron should be applied with Sulfur Soil Acidifier.  I bought some today, so there’s no excuse to postpone this task.

Sweet Autumn Clematis lives up to its name.  The sweet smell engulfs anyone near it.

Anyone familiar with Mexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) knows how invasive they are, but a patch of them is a stunning sight.  All this started from one little cutting I took years ago.

Every spring we dig them up around the edges to stop their spread.  This year I gave up and used several doses of Round Up to keep them contained.

And, oddly, I still like them.  They look great behind a bed of Blue Mist Greggii.

The Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) have begun their reach for the sky.  In spite of their name, they are drought tolerant and get very little water.

From spring until the middle of September, the plants have this palm tree look.

Then the stems start growing tall and sunflowers appear.

Extremes of weather plays havoc in gardens, but plant lovers just keep propagating, planting, watering, and weeding.  It’s can be frustrating but satisfying and rewarding.

“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control.  We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”
Jan SchakowskySave

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Reliable Perennials Perform Over and Over

Cooler mornings and evenings means a few hours to work or relax outside comfortably.

The plants must also appreciate a break from the heat.

This bed of Henry Duelburg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is always abuzz with hungry bees.  It is also sold under the name Blue Mealy Cup Sage.

What a wonderful, rewarding perennial.  Every year it blooms and blooms.

It is so hardy that it’s known as the cemetery sage.  For good reason, it was chosen as a Texas Superstar plant.

It’s almost impossible to point the camera and not get a picture of a bee.  I think these are bumble bees since they never bother me.

One last shot.  This salvia, like most, does spread.  But, in this case, I consider that a plus.

It’s also easy to transplant.  I dug some of the Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Deulberg’), with white flowers up and put them in this pot.

Some other reliable perennials are Turk’s Cap on the left, Salvia Greggi on the right, and Rose of Sharon in the background.

This year, the orange Ditch Daylilies have made a reblooming curtain call.  My two larger beds of these lilies are all blooming.  Crazy.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads to a large mass that deserves loud applause.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love it.

Garlic foliage and flowers on tall stems move gracefully in the wind.  Not sure if these are just ornamental or also edible.  Just got them for the flowers.

Only kind of grasshopper I like are those that don’t destroy plants.  Behind this pot are Coral Drift Roses.

Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans) is drought tolerant and grows well in limestone soils.  So it seems perfect for my location.

The problem is that it sometimes freezes and doesn’t return.  The cold hardiness for Yellow Bells is zone 9.  I live in zone 7b.  So this past winter, I cut it to the ground, piled up mulch, and turned a ceramic pot over it.  Hooray.  It made it.  But it has been extremely slow to get any height and flowers this year.  So I guess there will be a repeat performance this winter to protect it.

“Remove one freedom per generation and soon you will have no freedom and no one would have noticed.”  Karl MarxSave

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