Trees Anchor a Garden

West Texas, where I spent my childhood and youth, is almost devoid of trees, except for Mesquites.  So, I am reminded that no matter where one lives, there are public gardens where nature in all its beauty can be seen.  You might to travel to get there, but that’s can be a plus.

Tulip trees at Dallas Arboretum have a come hither pull on me.  It’s called a Tulip Tree, but it’s actually a Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana).

Even though they are past their prime, the lovely romantic look hasn’t passed.

Redbuds are blossoming out.

There was no identification sign on this one, but people around us were saying it was a Cherry Tree.  I thought Cherry Trees were much smaller.  This one was tall.  So I have my doubts about that ID.  But I’m certainly no expert.

Another Redbud that contrasts nicely with the Magnolia.

This is technically a large woody shrub.  The brilliant red of this Double Take Flowering Quince ‘Scarlet Storm’ (Chaenomeles speciosa) is blinding.  It makes my small native Texas Quince look pitiful.

So many towering tree in the garden give it a homey, comforting feel.  Even the bare branches provide some shade.

The arching of these bare Crape Myrtles remind me of Paris, for some reason.  Gorgeous tunnel effect.

Shakespeare and some symbols from his plays entice people to sit with him for a picture.

I’m not an authority on his works, but recognize this lion and crown as being from ‘King Lear’.

This little guy was behind Shakespeare.

As was this young maiden.

At first, I assumed this was a Japanese Maple.  But, I’m certainly not sure.

Sure like the color of the branches.

Lots of different structures add additional interest to the gardens.  This one also provides seating.  The large evergreen trees might be Live Oaks.

Looking a different direction shows more arches and a restaurant.

It’s easy to see why people call these Tulip trees.  So pretty.

Hope your spring is filled with beautiful trees and flowers.

“A toddler can do more in one unsupervised minute than most people can do all day.”  unknown

Wild and Beautiful

In the pastures and along the roads, nature is showing its color.

It’s easy to walk right past Algarita (Berberis trifoliolata) because it’s flowers and berries are so small.

When you step up close, the scent of the yellow flowers, the patterns of the crisscross  branches, and the shape of the leaves become noticeable.  But, beware, it is prickly.

The red berries, which are edible and are used for jelly, are just starting to form.  Usually, it blooms from February to April.

To see many of the flowers this time of the year, one must look down.  The flowers of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) are tiny:  about 1/2″ to 3/4″ across.  Everyone I spotted had a bug on it.

There are two varieties of Rain Lilies in Texas.  The ones that bloom in the spring are Cooperia pedunculata and have shorter floral tubes.

Water from one of the tanks is still spilling over even though we haven’t had any significant amounts of rain recently.

The bright yellow of the Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is the only reason one would notice this small plant.  All these small flowers can easily be trampled without seeing them.

Fringed Puccoon was used by the native tribes and early settlers to make dye from the roots.  The roots also has medicinal properties.  The Blackfeet people burned the dried leaves and flowers as an incense.

My old pals, Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) are back.  I love these pretty little flowers that are so plentiful.

Driving between Goldthwaite and San Saba, I just had to stop to snap a picture of  this massive field of bright yellow.  This photo only shows about one third of the field.

I think the plants are Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum Rusosum).  Although the solid yellow fields are pretty, the plants are extremely invasive and unwanted.

Not sure, but think this is a native blackberry bush that just showed up outside our gate.

Native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) seem to be springing up everywhere.

To see their beauty, get up close enough to hear all the bees.

And to see the two different shades of pink  that make up their blossoms.

Nature is offering the first colors and beauty this time of the year.

“Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes peace is better than being right.” unknown author

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In Fredericksburg

Recently my husband and I drove to Fredericksburg to scout out gardens.  My mission was to fine appropriate places that a class of prospective Master Gardeners could visit as a group to provide additional information and to observe different garden styles.

fredericksburgThe first stop was the Master Gardeners demonstration garden at the Ag Extension Office.  Although it isn’t the prettiest area, it shows a specific trait that is valuable for Texas gardens.  It does not receive supplemental water – only rain water.  Tough plants, only.

fredericksburg1Mostly native plants and a few others that have acclimated to the region are used.  It looked like there had been little rain recently.

fredericksburg2Mexican Feather Grass and native Redbuds are drought tolerant.

fredericksburg3Some of the plants here are Salvia Greggii, Purple Sage, and Cross Vine.

fredericksburg4The next garden was the Biblical Garden at the United Methodist Church.  It is small but a pretty spot.  Someone has done research to match the names of plants mentioned in the Bible with common names of plants today.

fredericksburg6Since Israel is arid, many plants that survive there also do well here.

fredericksburg7This sign identifies the plant with the yellow flowers in the former picture.

fredericksburg8A Pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) is referenced in Song of Solomon 4:14.

fredericksburg9Palm branches were used in John 12:13 and are common in Palm Sunday services.

fredericksburgaPapyrus (Cyperus papyrus) is seen on the left, and Bulrush (Typhaspp.) on the right.  Exodus 2 relates the well known account of the basket woven to hold baby Moses.  Both of these plants are considered possibilities for that with papyrus being the most likely.  It is also what was used for paper by the early Egyptians.

fredericksburgbAlthough this could actually be Papyrus, it looks a lot like Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius).

fredericksburgbbTrailing Rosemary is in the foreground and Purple Plumbago is growing under the tree.

fredericksburhNext we visited the Texas Rangers Heritage Museum, which is still a work in progress.  Flowerbeds lined the parking areas and around the pavilion.  But it seems I didn’t get pictures of those.  Guess I was enamored with the sculptures.

fredericksburhhThe plants in the flowerbeds were pretty predictable – Purple Sage, Salvias, and Cactus.  Several plants had died.  It will be interesting to see how this area is developed.

Next post will show more public gardens that we visited.

“Real Gardeners buy at least 10,000 plants over the course of a lifetime without having any idea where they will put them when they get home.”  unknown

Ready or Not

Most years everyone would be anxious for signs of spring.  This year, however, since trees and plants are leafing out so early, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop – a late freeze.

earlyearlyspringIn Brownwood there are lots of Mexican Plum trees (Prunus mexicana) covered in blossoms.  The plums on this native tree are small and hard but make good jams and jellies.

earlyearlyspring1So pretty.

earlyearlyspring2Along the highway near us, the native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensisare) are flowering.

earlyearlyspring6In our yard a Cherry Laurel  (Prunus laurocerasus) is covered with racemes.   I read recently that Cherry Laurels will not grow in alkaline soil, and if it is growing, it will die at some point.  I definitely hope that person is wrong.

This one came from a sucker in my friend’s yard 12 years ago.  I would really hate to lose it because it’s evergreen and a nice shape.  Plus, it provides a thick shade.

earlyearlyspring7Although I couldn’t see them, inside the tree bees were loudly buzzing.

earlyearlyspringdIn the field between the house and the barn is this jumble of small shrubs.  The blooming Algarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) caught my eye.

earlyearlyspring4To the right of it is a Mesquite, I think.  When they leaf out, that is an omen that there will be no more freezes this winter.  It doesn’t have a single leaf on it.

earlyearlyspringeThe shape of the Algarita leaves with the sharp tips are pretty, but those and their thorns make it a look, don’t touch bush.  Some brave souls gather the berries for tea jelly.

earlyearlyspringaSpotted a few Sweet Williams or Prairie Verbenas the other day as we were out walking.  Their toughness makes me smile.  In a few weeks, there will be clusters of them in all the fields.

earlyearlyspring9Last fall we scrapped a place in the field to plant wildflower seeds.  The directions from the owner of Wild Seed Farms in Fredricksburg were to rough up the ground, toss the seeds, and then move the top soil around a little.  Soon we’ll know if we were successful.

earlyearlyspring8I’m thinking or hoping that the little plant in the center of this picture is a Bluebonnet.  The leaves look right.

earlyearlyspringfAlso, in that field are rows of Irises.  These were planting years ago.  Some years there are lots of flowers.  Other years, not so much.  I’m not as faithful about fertilizing them as I used to be.

Guarding them is a vulture made from a shovel.  I found this at a second hand place in Brownwood.  It’s call This Old House and is on the highway 279 to Brownwood Lake.  They have several pots and yard art pieces as well as furniture and knick-knacks.

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”   unknown

Gardening Challenges

Anyone who has dug a hole for plants and tended them with the anticipation of growing vegetables, flowers, trees, or just green bushes knows the frustrations of gardening.

There are basically two categories of challenges.  Things that are out of our control, like weather.  Then there problems that are of our own making.  Boy, do I know that one.

Warning:  The following pictures are depressing (at least, for me, since they’re from my yard.)

problems3Gardeners usually plant for the average rainfall that can be expected.  So here, where our annual average is 27 inches, drought tolerant plants are recommended.

But this was a most unusual year.  In May, it rained 14 inches.  That hasn’t happened since 1895.  So far, our rainfall has been just under 26 inches this year.

I’m definitely not complaining about rain.  It’s just that some  drought tolerant plants got root rot from too much rain in a short time.  Especially here in our clay and caliche soil.

The above picture is one of my favorite native plants succumbed to wet caliche – Texas Yellow Bells.

problems1It’s probably best to consider the most dominant weather factor in a particular area.  For us, that’s heat.  So drought tolerant plants must be our choice.  Even if that means losing some when we have extreme unusual conditions, like our rare rainfall this year.

This Almond Verbena couldn’t take the soggy ground.

problems7Soil is another big issue.  Clay and caliche just don’t cut it for gardening.  So the choices seem to be:  amend the soil or use raised beds.  We’ve tried a little of both.  The easiest solution is definitely raised beds.

problems8Then we have the heat.  August has brought blistering 103 temps.  Frequent watering just keeps everything from  burning up.   problems5Insect and critter pests are also problems for gardeners.   For several years, grasshoppers have been our plague.  They can defoliate a plant in a few hours.

They’re happily chomping on this Russian Sage.

problems6Here are the remaining stems.

Gardeners have to choose where to be totally organic or to tackle problems with pesticides.   Since we live in the country, we don’t spray for bugs because it would be useless.  We just hope plants will recover the next spring.

Other pests for us include armadillos and skunks digging in the yard, especially when the surrounding fields are so dry.

problems4In the rear right hand side of this photo is a tower trellis that has been lifted up and twisted by a climbing rose.

Landscape design has become a hot topic in the gardening world.  It’s one of my weakest skills.  Even though I’ve read the books and attended classes, I still tend to underestimate the mature size of bushes.    Plus, I use more varieties of plants than what is recommended.  My excuse is that I don’t know what will survive, so I try them out.

problems2Sometimes, we’re faced with a “What happened?” problem.  Detective work or seeking advice sometimes helps.  Other times, it just remains a mystery.

One day this native Redbud tree was healthy and the next, it looked pathetic.

problemsAnother what happened.  This Mexican Feather grass may be a casualty of water staying clay or of something else.

Gardening experts warn against planting imported plants that are invasive.  But my archenemy is our native Bermuda grass.  Its runners constantly invade flowerbeds and put down deep roots.  We also have an many assorted weeds.  Most of those are easier to pull than the grass.  Examples of these are in this pix.

If you click on the links, there are nicer pictures of the plants before they bit the dust.

Wherever one lives, gardening is not an easy hobby.  But the rewards are fantastic.  So a gardener’s motto is just keep on working and experimenting.

“Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling

Country Lanes

Texas has five distinctive areas:  the Panhandle with extreme cold winters and dry barren landscapes; East Texas with plentiful rainfall and deep woods; Central Texas with tree covered hills and mild weather; West Texas with dry, sandy flat land and little rain; and South Texas with harsh desert conditions, some rocky mountains and flat lands.

We like to consider ourselves as being at the top of the Hill Country or Central Texas.  That’s stretching the truth a little – actually, a lot.  Truthfully, we have some characteristics like West Texas such as the dry climate, but we also have hills and trees and other plants like the Hill Country but colder winters.

All this to explain more about life in Texas than you may have wanted to know.

Countylanes4As we pull out of our gate this time of the year, these small native Redbuds are in our view.  They are small because the county machines chop them down every year or every other year.

Countylanes5Up close the buzzing of the bees is loud.

Countylanes6But they flew away when I approached them, so I didn’t get a picture of them.  I guess it’s a good thing rather than being attacked.

CountylanesFurther down our county road these bushes bloom in the spring.

Countylanes16jpgA botanist friend is willing to identify plants for me from pictures.  He tells me that are seven native plum trees in our area making identification difficult.  But this one is Sand Plum (Prunus gracilis).

Countylanes16jpgHe said it blooms later in the spring than others.  Thanks, Jack, for the info.

Countylanes3Spider web?  Information from a reader:  this is a pupa from a Tent Caterpillar

Countylanes7When I took this picture, I thought the red on this Ocotillo was berries.  But they look like flowers in this picture; they do bloom in March, so I’m not sure which it is.  Ocotillo is indigenous to the desert southwest in the US.  It is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword, and Jacob’s Staff.

It grows here because the rocky soil provides good drainage, and the summers are hot.

Correction:  this might be a different variety of an Ocotillo  or a Pencil Cactus or something else entirely.  Anyone know?

Countylanes8Little patches of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) dot the countryside.  It’s near the end of their blooming season.

Countylanes10The Green Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is abundant in our area.  The larvae of monarch butterflies eat only milkweed providing a necessary nutrient needed to develop.

The silky fluff from the seed was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  They would card it and then spin it like cotton.

Countylanes11The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) or Texas prickly poppy oblviously gets its name from the stems.   Their stems are short now, but most will be a foot and a half tall in the summer time.

Countylanes123jpgThe native Americans used this plant in medicines.  What kind, I don’t know.

Countylanes12Among all the other more prominent wildflowers are a few Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata).  They are a hardy, drought tolerant native to Texas and the central US. They are a full sun bloomer with the flowers closing each evening.  The dark color is spectacular.  I would love to see a full patch of them, but that’s rare here in nature.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.” Native American Proverb

Mayfield Park House Grounds

Mayfield Nature Preserve is a 21 acre natural area outside the rock wall of the Mayfield Park.  Inside the wall is a house, a storage building, a large rock patio with three ponds, and an extensive flower garden area.

mayfieldpark28Allison Mayfield acquired the property with the board and batten house in 1909 for a summer and weekend retreat for his family.  His only daughter and her husband moved into the cottage in 1922 and added porches to three sides of the house.

She designed the gardens while her husband oversaw the building of the stone wall, ponds, and other garden features.   A resident gardener worked on the projects for many years.

mayfieldpark27This Wisteria bush next to the house is reminiscent of the early 20th century.

mayfieldpark30A small Redbud tree stands among other, taller trees.

mayfieldpark37At the back edge of the yard is this arch and a patio area before there is a steep drop off to a deep creek bed.

mayfieldpark38Looking over the wall towards the creek area.

mayfieldpark33One of the three ponds in the stone patio area has an arching water feature created by a simple spout pointed upward.

mayfieldpark32The flowers and foliage in the pond resembles an iris, so that made me wonder.  I looked on line, and there are indeed pond water iris.  Learn something everyday.

mayfieldpark31Not sure what the purpose of this structure was.  Looks like a castle turret and a little out of place.

mayfieldpark29Daffodils:  a quintessential sign of early spring.

mayfieldpark26A pretty little simple flower whose name I do not know.

mayfieldpark22Bless her heart, this peafowl has a huge body and a tiny head.  Pretty plain.  She and the other peacocks are descendants of the original ones given to the Gutschs in 1935.

Mary Mayfield Gutsch’s husband died in 1965.   At her death in 1971, she left the home and acreage to the City of Austin to be used as a park.

mayfieldpark24The male sports iridescent colors with…

mayfieldpark25with a gorgeous tail.  What’s fair about that?

The Mayfield Park area can be booked for weddings and other social events.

“Genius and virtue are to be more often found clothed in gray than in peacock bright.”  Van Wyck Brooks

Is It Really Spring?

130 miles south of here it sure looks like spring has arrived.  On Sat. we drove to Austin where Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes were blooming in great abundance along the roadsides.  The state highway department seeded heavily in the Austin area.  The consistently warm weather and some rains in that area has provided green trees and some flowers.

mayfieldpark3As we stepped out of the parking lot at Mayfield Park, a patch of Bluebonnets greeted us.

mayfieldparkThe high pitched “Help Me, Help Me” of the peacocks can be heard throughout the park.  They have free roam and don’t even seem to notice all the people walking around.

mayfieldpark2I wondered if this peacock and the squirrel would react to one another, but they just kept to their own business.   Obviously, their meeting was old hat to them.  Ho, hum, boring.

mayfieldpark4Beside the parking lot was this small Redbud tree.  They are seeded by birds and spring up just about anywhere.

mayfieldpark5These native Giant Spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea) are so pretty.  Last year I planted one but it didn’t bloom; maybe it will this year.

mayfieldpark8Mine was planted in full sun.  These are partly shaded.

mayfieldpark7First, we walked through the nature area with many different kinds of native trees.  This bunch of plants with the tiny white flowers was eye catching.

mayfieldpark6It’s probably a plant that only grows in shade.  And that, I don’t have.

mayfieldpark9Many of the trees leaned with crooked and twisted shapes.

mayfieldpark10This lavender clusters of flowers were growing on a small tree.

mayfieldpark11Could it be a fruit producing plant?  Loved the butterfly.

mayfieldpark12Growing on the edge of a drop off, this bush or small tree was covered with blooms.

mayfieldpark13I think this is a Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum) which usually grows as an understory tree but can grow in full sun.

mayfieldpark14This unusual tree had the oddest leaves at the end of the branches.

mayfieldpark15Looking up, I wondered if those were the leaves or if it was a fungus that had killed the real leaves.

mayfieldpark16Another mystery.

mayfieldpark17This tree looks like it’s growing out of a rock, but it must be connected to the tree on the left.

mayfieldpark18This city park was a residence at one time.  The whole neighborhood is on the edge of Lake Austin.  This property seems to back up to an inlet of the lake.

mayfieldpark19Coming out of the wooded area, this stand of yuccas are in full bloom.  The ones further north are not even close to blooming yet.  What a difference a few degrees of latitude make.

mayfieldpark20A big area of native wildflowers beside the yuccas.

mayfieldpark21A bed next to the parking lot that also contains native plants.

On my next post, I’ll show the area inside the yard of the house area.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Arid Land

Just when I start feeling that our area is the most bone-dry place in the world, we travel to West Texas to visit my mother.  Now I realize rationally that there are much more barren spots on this planet, but living without rain is a challenge, especially if one loves flowers.

Let’s forget the fact that we’ve lived a great deal of our lives in this environment and that we could possibly move.  But our family is near by, and this is home.  Occasionally, I just need to vent and dream about that perfect climate.

snyder4The town of Snyder is really desolate.  They have been on water rationing for so long that most people have given up trying to have grass or flowers.  As we were leaving town, I spotted this yard.  Cactus does have a beauty all its own.

In the background to the right is a century plant.  Although I don’t know the correct names of most cactus, I think the one in the foreground is a type of Chollo.

snyder6There is definitely a trend in Texas to use native plants that are drought tolerant.  Necessity dictates this.

snyder5snyder3This looks like another type of Chollo with the stubs (pedicels?) of the last year’s blooms.  Cactus flowers are truly beautiful in  the spring.

SnyderAnother reliable Texas native is the Redbud tree.  Their spring color is a welcome sight.  Thankfully, they don’t seem to need much water.

snyder2As the climate here is becoming drier, we must embrace the environmentally friendly natives.  And “that’s a good thing” to quote Martha Stewart.

“I can quit eating chocolate anytime I want.  But I’m not a quitter.”  unknown

 

 

Shades of Red

The primary colors are a feast for my eyes.  As they say on TV decorating programs, “The bright colors will pop against the backgrounds.”  These reds do jump out and grab you.

redyuccaThe Red Yuccas (Hesperaloe parviflora) are just starting to bloom.  And they do pop against the green of the grass and shrubs and the blue of the sky.  Their form also is eye catching.

Red Yuccas are native to Central and West Texas.  They flower from late spring through early autumn.

yuccaflowerNot only are they pretty, but yuccas are hardy and extremely drought tolerant. Plus they survive freezing temperatures.  The flower stalk dies, leaving a striking skeletal shape with large seed pods opened like a flower for the winter.  Red Yuccas are one care free plant.   In recent years, they are the hot new item in landscaping.  It’s like they’ve just been discovered.

yuccabeeThe buzzing of bees add to the viewing experience.  These are probably honeybees.  The hummingbirds love to feed from them, too.

poinsettia6Okay.  I did say that I was definitely not going to keep the Poinsettias after January.  But they just keep surviving.  While they are still red, how could I trash them?  Let’s see how long they last outside and in the heat.

poinsettia5This will be a school science experiment.

xmascactusThe last bloom of the Christmas Cactus dropped a few weeks ago.

redbudpodsRust red seed pods of the native Redbud trees look redder from the road.

kolanche2The clusters of this particular Kolache  is not the usual rounded form of most varieties.

yuccabee2One parting shot of a bee enjoying the nectar of a Red Yucca.

Sometimes it’s hard to choose one’s favorite color of flowers.  But you don’t have to.  I  love red ones, yellow ones, purple ones, etc.

“How would you like a job where when you made a mistake, a big red light comes on and 18,000 people boo?”  Jacques Plante, Canadian ice hockey goaltender