The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

It’s been about six weeks since our extraordinary cold weather event and nature is recovering.  We did not lose as many plants as I feared, and those in pots in the shed mostly look great.

Everything is leafing out and blooming later than usual, but that’s to be expected.  Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is looking good and loaded with flowers.  All of our efforts to kill the native Bermuda grass in this raised bed has failed.  So I guess it’s there to stay.

Before the flowers open completely, they look almost artificial.

Their thin red petals are perfect for hummingbirds.

Purple Bearded Iris are my favorite color of iris.  These are rebloomers and actually do rebloom often.

Behind these beautiful Irises is a native ‘found’ rose bush.  Martha Gonzales rose was found in San Antonio.  It is considered to be very hardy.  But, alas, it certainly looks dead.

At the bottom of what looks like a dead Martha Gonzales are these leaves and a rose.  I’ve trimmed the bush but am uncertain what to do now.  It’s one of those wait and see times.

Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) are all aglow.  This native needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Since we have clay, it’s in a raised bed with amended soil.

Now:  get ready for the Extraordinary-

Last week I saw this stunning plant in a town south of here.  It’s called Parrot Beak Plant (Lotus Berthelotii).  With such bright flower color, of course it’s tropical.

It is so striking and gorgeous that I’m patting myself on the back for not buying one.  I’m trying to stay away from tropical plants that my poor, sweet husband has to carry into the shed.

Also, I read that it needs lots of water and cool weather to bloom.  With summer on the horizon, that’s not going to happen.  So I’ll just enjoy the pictures.

The plants that do well in our area, while some may be considered ordinary, are a blessing and certainly make gardening easier.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants.  And that’s pretty much the same thing.”  unknown

Romantic Roses

Ahh, February, the month of romance.  I would have chosen a spring month, when roses are blooming.  But, here we are at the latter part of winter.  This is the time to plant roses.  What better gift for a sweetheart than roses?  Maybe, roses and chocolate.

If you buy roses at a florist or grocery store, they will have strong, straight stems and perfectly formed flowers.  They have been breed to sell.  But they won’t have a scent.  So an alternative might be to buy a rose bush and plant it for your sweetie.

This book was written by a lady from Houston.  It focuses on the origin of each particular rose shown, the hybridizer, and significance of the name.

The pictures are fantastic.   Anaïs Ségalas was hybridized by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Vibert to honor a French lady poet. A very conventional lady, she wrote “Love, pray, dream, that’s the existence of all women.”  Not very inspiring for females of our time.

Don Juan is probably a rose you recognize.  It was hybridized in Italy and named in the US by Jackson and Perkins.  Named after the seductive legendary lover, it definitely says romance.

A quote about Don Juan, the man:  “Heaven offended, laws violated, girls led astray, families dishonored, relatives outraged, wives ruined, husbands driven to despair.”

Named after a famous German who came to live in Texas in the 1800’s.  He is known for traveling around the Southwest and discovering hundreds of plant species.

Some of the pages in the book are a double spread of a particular rose.  This one is Graham Thomas.  It is a hybridization of Charles Austin and Iceberg.  He was a 20th century gentleman who lived a gentleman’s life.

His friend and rose hybridizer, David Austin,  took him to a field filled with new roses and let Thomas choose which rose would bear his name.

A fun, pretty book.

Now to a very practical book.  Judy Barrett is a lady who has spent a great deal of time growing roses and determining how to be successful doing so.  Because of Texas soils and weather, it can be difficult to grow roses.  The eastern Piney Woods is the only area where it is easy.

The advice is extensive and helpful.

I love the Peace Rose but don’t have one.  Such a sweet look and history.

Old world and antique roses have lovely aromas and are hearty.

Filled with specific hints and information, I highly recommend this book.

“I’d love to have the whole place swimming in roses.”  James Joyce

Simple Small Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall Color

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glorious Autumn Days

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

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

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

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

Pollinators have been buzzing around busily getting their fill.

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye, Sweet Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blooms before Blast

It’s coming.  We all know it’s coming.  That blazing inferno that we call “summer” will descend any day now.  So far, June has been mild and a joy.  The yard is full of flowers.

Rock Rose (Patonia lasipotela) is one of my favorite Texas native flowering bushes.  For some reason, I cannot get a really good picture of the whole bush.  The sun, whether early or late, bleaches out color and detail.

Covered with dainty hibiscus-like flowers , it grows in full sun and stands up well to the harsh light.  What a great perennial.

A tall border of Rose of Sharon or Althea on the east side of the yard blooms all summer long until the first freeze.  They are about 10 to 11 ft. tall with a spread of about 6 ft.

Their flowers are stunning but not a rose.  Growing up in West Texas, I was unfamiliar with hibiscus.  Now I get to have all these flowers that resemble the exotic hibiscus.

A website reports that young leaves can be eaten and that the flowers and leaves can be brewed as a tea.  Not saying that I would try that.

Native to China, it gets thumbs up here.

This David Austin rose has his trademark rose center.  Although it continues to produce gorgeous flowers, the foliage looks pitiful.  It’s practically a barren bush with pretty roses.  Not sure what’s wrong.

Another Rose of Sharon with very different flowers.  It also has a more upright column look.

This year there are more flowers than usual.

The leaves look like the other Rose of Sharon but the flowers don’t.

Also a sign of summer, this grasshopper munches on an Mr. Lincoln rose.

Blue Mist Flower covered a large section of this flower bed.  But the native Bermuda grass was choking it out.  So last fall, we dug up the plants and as many grass roots as we could get. We covered the whole area with a heavy coat of mulch.

Then we transplanted the Blue Mist into metal planters.

Viceroy Butterflies feed on Blue Mist all summer long.  Now, if we can just keep the grass from growing here.  That’s a lifelong struggle.

Hope you are enjoying these mild days of June.

“Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.”    James Dewar

Lilies and More

Here we are – still isolated, same as you.  One plus from all this time at home is more time to spend outside and to get some work done.

Now for some lilies:  this Apricot Fudge Lily was planted last year.  The stem on this double Asiatic lily with apricot flowers should be taller next year.

Return star – second year of Eyeliner Lily has brought a taller plant and more flowers.

Its lovely crisp flowers last several days.  A breeder in Holland created this hybrid between an Asiatic Lily and the Easter Lily.

Good old Ditch Lilies were planted 14 years ago and perform every year without fail.

Perennial Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) on tall stems add texture diversity.

Before they open, they’re encased in a rounded pod with a point at the top.  This one looks like a pixie with a hat.

I just can’t help myself from showing roses.  Brilliant Veranda is a small bush that does well in a pot.  I had it in a pot for 3 years, but fire ants loved to hang out there.  So last year, it was moved to a bed.  The color is just like the name says – brilliant.

This Astible was a mail order plant that arrived last year while we were out of town.  It didn’t look like it would survive, so I hastily put it in this pot.  It will be moved to an area that gets some shade and receives regular water.

Native perennial Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) keep filling in spaces.  However, they aren’t taking my suggestion to grow into the area in the bottom right of the picture.  Just got to be patience.

They prefer rocky, well-drained soil and do not like clay.  Inour raised bed, the soil has been amended and is looser than clay, so they’re happy.

Although I’ve never been able to see them, four dark purple veins are supposed to be clearly visible on both sides of the ray.

Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is in full bloom.

It’s unique blossoms draws everyone in for a closer look.  This bush was planted way too close to the house and leans out for light.  The rope ties it to the stake to keep it somewhat upright.

“In the blink of an eye your life can change.  Be sure to make the most out of each moment.  Today is a gift from God.”  Matt McMillen