Books, Nurseries, Capitol

On a recent visit to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, we made stops at some nurseries.  No surprise there.

In the parking lot of a nursery, this flaming red Celosia is a magnet.  This one is probably Dragon’s Breath Celosia.  Celosias are annuals, so I don’t plant them much.  I would love to get Celosia to reseed.  Anyone know a trick?

This Texas native Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads and flops but has beautiful bright flowers.  In full sun, it stands more upright.

An unusual characteristic is that it grows well in arid West Texas and in boggy Houston, which is in extreme Southeast Texas.  A versatile plant that is hardy and grows in the sun or shade.

A stand of these natives were also in the parking lot.  Maybe it’s Threadleaf Groundsel?

Inside the nursery, this Dwarf Thurderhead Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Black Pine’ ) grows naturally in ball tufts.  Could be a nice focal point in a garden.

Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea (Lamiaceae)) is a hardy native perennial.  Love the deep purple.

Another beauty is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), which grows extremely well in the mild winters of Austin.  It freezes in my area.  I do love the soft velvet look.

Grasses have used in many public and some private landscapes for several years. Finally, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and want more in my yard.  There are so many varieties available now that it’s difficult to choose.

Every fall the book festival is held in the capitol building and in many large white tents set up on the streets around the capitol.  Authors from all over the US and some from abroad talk about their subjects.

It’s a haven for book lovers.

The artist for this cowboy sculpture was a New Yorker who created it in the early 1900’s.

Here’s Mexican Bush Sage used in the landscape.

Several monuments are scattered in the large area surrounding the capitol.

This monument honors the southerners who died in the Civil War.

Not that I’m prejudged, but this is a beautiful capitol building.  Inside, the impressive dome area and other public areas make it worth a visit.

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”           P. J. O’Rourke

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

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

Looking Back

Happy New Year.  A special thank you to those who faithfully read my blog.  I wish you joy and fun in your garden space.

This bitter cold, icy weather outside is a good time to snuggle under a blanket in front of a fireplace and peruse seed and plant catalogs.  I’m also reflecting on some of my favorite plants in my yard.

Here are some of the ones that have done well:Dig a small hole, plant a bulb and voila:  you’ll have flowers for years to come.  That’s one reason I love bulbs – one and done.  Plus, they have lovely forms, like this Kindly Light Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’), which brings bright color to spring.

Even the lowly, plain old fashioned Ditch Daylilies are an anticipated joy each spring.  These were planted 12 years ago and still pop up every year with their familiar orange faces smiling at me.

Reblooming Irises come in so many colors and can be used as an accent color in a bed.

Irises are like eating peanuts or potato chips, it’s hard to stop with just a few.

Their color can also play off of other plants, like this Larkspur.  Larkspurs are another favorite flower.  Just toss a few seeds on the groud and rake light over them, and they’ll spring up in the yard for years.

My first bulbs were old fashioned irises that were pass-along gifts from family and friends.  They need less water, so I planted them in a field across the road from the yard.  The success is dependent on the amount of rainfall they receive each year.  But they’ve been faithful for 12 years.

No yard is complete without some flowering shrubs.  The bright red clusters on this Dynamite Crape Myrtle are gorgeous.  A group of three shrubs were planted together 11 years ago.  It took a while for them to get established in the alkaline clay in our yard.  But they have been great performers for years.

Some Crape Myrtles grow to be 30 feet tall trees.  Dynamite is a medium size that remains a shrub size.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) is right at home here.  Pollinators love it.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a native that also attracts lots of pollinators.  It grows in full sun or light shade.

Bees flock to the delicate petals on Duranta flowers.  It’s easy to find shrubs that attract pollinators.  It’s been harder for me to find evergreen shrubs that are flowering and different from the usual shrubs sold at nurseries.

Hardy Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) blooms all summer and draws pollinators.

And finally, another pass-along plant from a friend:  Rose of Sharon or Althea (Hibiscus syriacus).  It’s been absolutely one the best blooming shrubs I have.  The flowers appear in late spring and continue blooming until late fall.

I’m so thankful that there are plants that will survive in our harsh environment of strong sun and scarce rain; also, plants have to establish a root system in our heavy clay, high alkaline, and caliche soil.

“Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”  Mother Teresa

Back to the Rose Emporium

This post continues with our last visit to the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham.  Although I have lots of favorite nurseries, this one is probably at the top of the list.

We arrived early before our meeting to wander around the grounds.  It was foggy and the camera lens kept fogging up, but it created a mystical look to some of the pictures.

This bottle tree made my husband suggest that we do a Dr. Pepper tree, which is his drink of choice.

This looks like a sage, but I’m not sure.

Little touches here and there make this a unique nursery.  I consider it an idea place to inspire gardeners.

Often, gardeners overlook the cheap plants, like Zinnias.  A packet of seeds can provide a whole season of brightly colored flowers.  Behind the Zinnias are some Potato Vines.  Although they are annuals, it’s not too expensive to cover a good sized space because they grow fast and spread out.

Cute flower pot man.  Probably has rods through the legs to hold it up.

This is a cheap way to erect an arch.  The wire fencing needs something steady, like the wooden fence to give it strength.  Also, some kind of tree has been trained over the wiring, so it would be strong.

Really like the row of these arches over a pathway.  Antique roses give it a classical look.

This smiling face makes me smile.  Wouldn’t have thought to put it in a birdbath.

Pink Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii,) was hybridized by Greg Grant in honor of his friend Pam Puryear.  She was an avid plant lover who went rose rustling with him.

A hiss can almost be heard from this arched back cat.

Salvia Greggii White Autumn Sage is not seen as often as the red flowered ones.  It has the same wonderful scent and is a refreshing change.

Cute little green house that would be a great backyard addition.

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.”           William Arthur Ward

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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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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WestCave Preserve

Last Friday we headed to Austin for some diverse activities:  a little shopping, some Mexican food, a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and a visit to a grotto.

WestCave is about 40 miles west of Austin in an isolated area.

By the entrance gate is some New Gold Lantana.  I had thought it was a hybrid, but everything growing here is native.

Some Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) in front of the main building.

As we head down, we get a glimpse of Pedernales River.  The word means flint stone.  The Spanish explorers named it to denote an area the Indians had used because it was rich with a high quality brown flint or chert.

Ball moss hanging from Live Oaks.

The moss is a Tillandsia or the type of plant that gets its nutrients from the air and is not harmful to the tree host.

Further down, Woodland Fern grows among the rich soil of tree leaf mulch.

Not sure what this plant is – maybe a type of Oakleaf Hydrangea?

The path is rough and steep.  Wish I had taken a picture of the stone stairs, but I was concentrating on staying upright.  The guide constantly reminds the group to stay on the path for our safety and to protect the preserve.

Some American or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) seems to grow out of rocks.

Love the bright red of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) flower.

At the end of the trail is the grotto area.  It seems that we’ve stepped into a mythical secret place.

What looks like a cave is just a spot under fallen rocks.

Delicate Maidenhair Fern provides more lush growth.

Standing under the large fallen rock, the dripping water forms a thin curtain.

This the actual cave that we climb into.  The rocks are wet and slippery, so I’m thankful for the wire hand holds.

The Cow Creek Limestone forming the ceiling of the cave is covered with ancient sea shells.

The humidity is so high that by the time we leave this area, we’re soaked with sweat.

But I take the time to take photos of these two dragonflies.

I’ve never seen a red-orange one before.  Glad one stopped darting around long enough for a photo to be taken.

Two full days of activities was fun.

Have a blessed day.

“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world.  Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know and don’t understand.”                          David AttenboroughSave

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A Healthy Garden

The day we were in the community garden in Menard, butterflies were everywhere – one sign of a healthy garden.

gardenmenard6A Southern Dogface Butterfly is enjoying the Zinnias.

gardenmenard5Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) has a wonderful velvety texture and butterflies gravitate to them.

gardenmenardaA Pipevine Swallowtail also like the Zinnias.

gardenmenardbWhat is it about butterflies that is so spellbinding?  The fact that they are fragile?  Always in motion?  Or just plain gorgeous?

gardenmenardThis garden has many purposes besides looking pretty.  It provides raised beds for citizens to rent for growing vegetables.

gardenmenard1Some okra pods look ready to be picked.

gardenmenard7Our group of Master Gardener students was here specifically to learn about water conservation.  In a demonstration, Billy Kniffen pours water into four different plastic boxes on top of a rack.  The water then flows down into other boxes on the lower shelf that have drain pipes.  The purpose of the demo is to show how much water pours out of the pipe and how quickly it empties out.

What is planted in the ground makes a difference for water absorption.  The bin on the left has native prairie grasses growing, which allows the rainfall to soak in, and the long roots of the grasses leads the water further into the ground, replenishing the water table.

gardenmenard8The next container is turf sod or grass like what is used in most yards, which allows some runoff.

Then there is a container that has very little growing in it.  Bare ground becomes hard and doesn’t absorb water, which then washes away even more soil.

This shelter and some other small sheds have gutters that direct rainwater into water storage tanks.

gardenmenard9The last container has a house.  Sponges are placed around the house.  Once they have soaked up water, then it will gradually seep out.  He suggested having water permeable hard surfaces to prevent water runoff.  Replacing concrete with other materials like gravel would help.  There are products that have a strong enough surface for walking or even parking a car, but have holes that allow water to pass through.  Those have been in use in Europe for many years.

Manufactured permeable blocks that look like concrete are available, but are extremely expensive. Hopefully companies will come up with ways to produce more affordable materials.

gardenmenardcLarge ornamental grasses similar to the native prairie grasses hold water and are good choices for landscaping.

gardenmenarddAnd of course, every garden needs pretty plants like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii).

Enjoy the butterflies in your garden now before cold weather comes.

“You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”  unknown

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Oldies but Goodies

One of the pleasures of gardening is the return each year of perennials.  Success with plants is not always the case, so it feels good when it happens.

oldiesOne sure way to achieve success in the garden is to use native plants.  All plants are native somewhere, so planting native always refers to what grows naturally in your neck of the woods.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is one of those wildflowers that comes up wherever it pleases.  If that doesn’t bother you, then it works.   I like the way the white flowers kind of glow.

oldies8Clammy Weed and Zinnas are easy to please – just a little water and sunshine.

oldies1Rose of Sharon also does well here.  Most of my bushes have the flowers that look like Hibiscus.  These have a rose look.

oldies2One of the best plant that gardeners in central Texas can have are Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  Just step up close to them and have butterflies darting all around you.oldies3Blue Mists fill in spaces among other plants.  If you like that, you’re good to go.  If not, put them in a contained flower bed.

oldies44Another beauty is Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus drummondii).  It doesn’t look like it would survive Texas sun, but this plant has been in this spot for eight or nine years.  it’s tough.

oldies4The garden is doing well when all kinds of “good” bugs live there.

oldies5Bright red of these turbans always make me smile.

oldies7Behind the Blue Mist, Mexican Petunias (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’) keep expanding.  This is another one that needs to be contained if you have limited space.

This group all came from one cutting that I took nine years ago.  If you see something you like, then ask permission to take a cutting.  If it doesn’t survive, then nothing lost.

oldies6One of my favorites:  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) was planted many years ago.  I bought it long before I knew anything about it.  It is now a Texas Superstar plant.

Many hardly plants are found in cemeteries.  These were growing on a grave when they were discovered, so they were named for the name on the tombstone.

oldies9Ordinary Morning Glory reminds me of old gardens of the early settlers.  There’s a reason they have been around for years and years.  It’s impossible to kill them.

Just a few seeds from a friend and voila, you’ll have flowers forever.  But they are invasive, so beware.

oldiesaRock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is one of the better behaved natives.  It stays where it is put and is not invasive.

oldiesbPretty little flowers that look more like hibiscus than roses.

oldiescStrawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) does come up profusely.  But it’s a small plant that looks good poking its head up among other flowers.

Neat and tidy in the garden isn’t my thing.

oldiesgCanyon Creek Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’) is fighting to keep its place in a bed since Pink Gaura keeps spreading out.

oldiesdThis bush in the back yard is so bright and cheerful.  I have sought to identify it definitively.

Finally, a nursery man had one like it and told me it was a Texas Flowery Senna (Senna corymbosa).  Other names include Flowering Senna, Tree Senna, and Buttercup Bush.

After about six years, it’s about 6 feet tall and wide.  Great plant.

oldiesfSmall green flying bugs or bees flit from flower to flower.  One is on a petal in the upper middle of the picture.

Wildflowers are just weeds.  So pick the pretty ones you love and plant a few seeds.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”  W. E. Johns