A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Ah, Spring

What a gorgeous day on the first day of spring.  It’s a calm day with no wind, a nice temperature in the high 60’s, clear skies, and a bright sun.   Now, if it would rain soon, it would be perfect.

pear2Last Friday we drove to Fredericksburg with the goal of enjoying a warm day and seeing some greenery and maybe even flowers.  Unfortunately, it was just as cold there as here with a sharp wind.

The only thing we saw in bloom were Bradford Pear trees.

pearBut they were a beautiful sight.

Bradford Pears are much maligned by horticulturalists because they experience diseases and are short lived.  But their showy spring flowers make them a favorite of many citizens.

robinBack home the only evidence of spring were a few robins in the yard.

Nothing leafing out here.

robin2Patience is required this year.  I’m afraid it will be awhile before spring truly arrives.

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”  Virgil Kraft

Spring before Spring

Spring is a relative term here.  A winter day followed by a spring type one with temperatures in the 70’s confuses trees, shrubs, and birds.  Technically, it is still winter.  But springlike things are happening.  While cold days intermingle with the warm ones.

The old saying, “If you don’t like the temperature in Texas, wait a few hours, and it will change.” is so true.

quinceThis Quince started blooming in early February.  Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is a small deciduous shrub that flowers in early, early spring before the leaves appear.

I had never even heard of Quince until about two years ago.  A lady on an HGTV show was showing how to force Quince to bloom indoors in the winter.  So when I saw one at an Austin nursery, I was interested, but wanted one that would survive here.

Quinces don’t have flashy flowers but provide a nice bright red in the landscape.  I still haven’t seen another one in local towns.  Could be that I just need to get out more.

quince2quince3The blossoms of the Texas Quince aren’t long lasting but new buds open often.

New subject: Robins

I’m not sure what qualifies one as a “bird-watcher”, but I’m sure no official group would accept me.  Picture your stereotype birder with binoculars hanging around the neck stealthily creeping through the damp grass before the sun is up.  That is not me.

I love to watch birds but am not able to get pictures too often.  As soon as I grab my camera and open the door (note that I’m indoors), they tend to have flown away.

redbreastedbird3 Last fall several flocks of birds stopped to eat in our yard.  There’s no bird feeder, but plenty of seeds and insects.

redbreastedbird5This flock of robins was very intent on eating and didn’t notice me.  Also, the setting sun may have helped my position with the door cracked ajar and the camera lens sticking out.

Their breasts were rust rather than red and some were mottled.

redbreastedbird4robin4Another flock came in January this year.  They were more jittery, but I got a few photos.

robin2The low sun deepened the color of their red breast.

Don’t you love the way red brightens our lives.

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”  Langston Hughes