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

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

Some Favorites for Spring

Gardeners each have their own favorite plants, so I don’t usually foist my choices on others.  But today I’m going to make some recommendations.

If you have read my blog before, you know how much I love roses.  Part of the reason is because before we moved here, I didn’t have the space, sunny spots, or the time to do any gardening.

Then, surprisingly, roses not only have survived here but were a success.

Drift Roses are a relatively new type of Knock Out® Roses.  These are Coral Drift Roses.  They are low growing and constantly covered with flowers from early spring until the first freeze.

If I can have roses here in my high alkaline, clay and rock soil, then anyone can.  They are in lasagna raised beds that have amended soil.  Other than that, all they need is sun and water.

The rocks at the edge of the beds are to keep the water from washing off the slopes.  Texas has lots of limestone fossils.  This one and the following ones came from the edge of a creek on our property.

There are some roses that are exceptional performers.  Like this Belinda’s Dream that flowers on and off for months.  It has no disease problems.  Just give space for bushes to get huge – about 6 feet across.

Tropicana is a popular rose that does well in many different areas and is usually available at all kinds of nurseries.  It is a hybrid tea that blooms fairly often.

My all time favorite of the roses that I’ve tried is Double Delight because it has a strong scent that is out of this world.  It is also a hybrid tea.  I recently bought another one at a local nursery because I’m not sure how long roses bushes last.  Mine is twelves years old and doesn’t look as healthy this year as usual.  But we did have some hard freezes this winter.

Clematis vines are a great choice for gardeners.  There are many varieties available that grow well in different zones.

Many have prettier, fancier flowers than this one, but I chose one that does well here – Jackman Clematis.

Yellow Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) brightens up the early spring.  After the bareness of winter, it is just what the doctor ordered.

This soil was not amended, so it’s a tough plant.

As you see, pollinators are drawn to it.  Plus, it’s so cheery.

Another category of flowers is bulbs.  Stella de Oro Reblooming Daylily is technically not a bulb but a herbaceous root plant.

To keep it blooming, deadheading spent blooms is necessary.  It’s a gorgeous low growing, bright yellow flower that pollinators love.

There are many different flowers that fit into the vague, incorrect category “bulb”.  For example:  tulips and daffodils are bulbs, irises are rhizomes, gladiolas and crocuses are corms, and daylilies are tubers with tuberous roots.  Confusing.

My point is that plants in the “bulb” designation are a wonderful addition to any garden.  They tend to be reasonably priced; some produce new bulbs so your investment grows and can be shared; many different varieties are available to grow in different zones and climates; and most provide beautiful flowers year after year.  What a bargain.

Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea) was discovered growing beside a grave in LaGrange, Texas.  Greg Grant named the plant after the deceased.  It is one wonderful, eye catching plant.  Keep it contained because it spreads.

The white version, Augusta Duelberg, was named after his wife, whose grave was beside him.  A Texas SuperStar® plant that blooms from early spring until the first freeze.

As usual, it is best to “dance with the one who brung you” meaning it’s important to select plants that do well where you live.

“Don’t let the thoughts of failure stop you from trying, even when you fail, it’s not enough to give up.  The light bulb itself finally found success after so many trials.”  Terry Marks.

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Early April Flowers

Night time temperatures are still in the lower 40’s, so it’s too early to get the more cold tender plants out of the shed.  But there are plenty of other things blooming to make spring gorgeous.

Roses are putting on a great show, even though there are still some weeds in the beds.

The red roses and white (actually they are yellow that fade to white) are both Knockouts.  The peachy roses are Oso Easy Paprika.  The tall bush in the back with pink flowers are Earth Kind.

About weeds:  gardening is hard and many of the results are out of our control due to weather.  So I think we should give ourselves a break.  It is almost impossible to get all chores done timely, especially if you don’t have help.  Gardeners are usually kind to other gardeners but hard on themselves.

On the other side of the house more roses are blooming like crazy.  This Katy Road is super hardy.  It was developed by Dr. Griffith Buck at Iowa State University to withstand the cold and long winters of the Midwest.  It was named Carefree Beauty.

In Texas, it has been known as Katy Road Pink because it was found on Katy Road in Houston.  Amazingly, it has proven to endure our hot, dry summers.

Large orange colored rose hips are produced from every flower.

This yellow florabunda has stayed small in bush size but produces lots of roses.

The Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgarees) have spread.  Several have been dug up and potted for garden club plant sales.  Some people don’t want them in their yards because they do spread.  I like the fact that they can become pass-a-long plants.

This rose (unknown) always knocks my socks off.

Two years ago I was given this Amaryllis for Christmas.  I had tried planting Amaryllis bulbs in a flower bed with so-so results.  So I decided to put this bulb in a larger pot and place it outside in a mostly shady spot during the spring, summer, and fall.  When it got cold, I put it in the heated shed.

The stalks got tall – almost 3 feet.  The bulb doubled in size.

The double blooms are fabulous.

Reblooming Irises are as dependable as sunshine in the desert.  In fact, I’m not sure how a person would kill bulb.  Maybe by drowning them.  They don’t require much water as the ones out in our field prove.

A muted mauve type color.

Ones with purple or solid purple are my favorite irises.

The Yellow Lead Ball tree is already covered with blooms and buds about to bloom.

This small tree has proven to be a winner because it doesn’t need good soil or much water.

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”  Emma Goldman

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Gardens at Biltmore

The gardens at Biltmore are fabulous, as expected.

gardensThe wooded garden area is huge, and I doubt that we saw all of it.  It is naturalistic in design, but definitely has some order to it.  There are wide paved paths through sunny and shady areas.

Most of the shrubs were unfamiliar to me.

biltmoreflowersBut a few had labels.  This Weigela (Weigela florida) in the honeysuckle family is gorgeous.

gardens2At one spot, there was a glimpse into the more formal gardens.  The wooden arbor seen here is in the center of the gardens that are laid out symmetrically.

gardensdAt the main steps that lead down into the formal gardens, almost the whole garden is in view.  In the far back is the conservatory with tropical plants.  These were popular on large estates during the Victorian age.  Today, they are found in large public gardens.

gardens4A type of Beebalm, maybe.  A reader provided the information that this is a Centaurea.  Glad to know.

gardens5Tall spikes of Gomphrena pop with the shaded wall background.

gardens6Japanese Iris require an acidic soil, so we certainly cannot grow them here.

gardensaaAlmost all of the flowers were planted in generous groupings.

gardensaaaThe white tree in the background at the right caught my attention.

gardensbCloser, it’s still a mystery.

gardensbbAh ha – a Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus).  I’ve only seen ones with orange blossoms in our area.

gardenscLots of different types of Bearded Irises scattered throughout the garden.

gardensccA large rose garden area had all kinds of different varieties.  It was a little too early in the year for them to be in full bloom.

gardensdd

gardenseBehind the wall at the back of the gardens are greenhouses plus a nursery.

biltmoreflowers3Love the contrasting colors.

gardensf

biltmoreflowers4The Peonies blew me away.

biltmoreflowers6It is just too hot and dry here to grow them.

biltmoreflowers7But, if I could, I’d have a whole yard of them.

biltmoreflowers8Love them all.

gardensgPretty color in the petals but unknown to me.

gardensggThis white plant was very strange and was in two different spots.  I couldn’t tell if they were bulbs that needed to keep their foliage until it all shriveled up or if it was a plant with that color of foliage.

gardenshEuphorbia Lime Green bush.

gardenshhVery striking.

gardensiiThe flower beds along the outside walls were wide and layered.  Very attractive with the wooded garden behind them.  Wonder how they weed?

gardenskClematis

gardenskkAzaleas that must be young plants.

gardensjjIn one corner of the wall was what looked like a house.  I figured it was a storage area for gardening supplies, but it might have been a house for a gardener at one time.  Behind the lady, who was a gardener putting out bedding plants, and to her right is an arched exit that leads into more wooded garden areas.

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”  Lindley Karstens

Irises, Mostly

Irises starting to bloom is spring welcoming us to her beauty.  On recent cloudy days, blustering spring winds bite and made us doubt that spring has arrived.  But there probably won’t be any more true cold weather coming.

iris6Many years ago in a field next to the yard around the house I planted old fashioned, pass along iris bulbs from different friends and family members.

iris2During the first few years, I was diligent about fertilizing them on or near Valentine’s Day and Halloween, which are the recommended times.  Now they’re lucky to be fertilized anytime.

iris4Over the years, the neglect has taken a toll on them.  They need to be divided.  So far, I haven’t taken care of that.  The weeds and cactus have been pulled or hoed at different times, but that is a daunting, never ending chore.

iris7They keep plugging along, but each year the stems are a little less tall and the flowers a little smaller.  Poor dears.

irisdIn that same field there are many tiny flowers that carpet the area.

irisbPretty sure these yellow flowers are Texas Groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus).

iris9I haven’t had much success trying to research the many yellow wildflowers of Texas, as well as the many small flowers.  As I thumb through the wildflower pictures, the similarities are too close for definitive identification.

iris8Patches of Sweet William or Prairie Verbena are starting to dot the landscape.

iris3These are the first flowers to appear in the field where we prepared the soil and planted wildflower seeds.  We scattered several packages of mixed seeds as well as specific ones, so I don’t know what these red flowers are.

irisIn the yard, these re-blooming Irises were planted about seven years ago.  I have divided them and planted some in different beds around the yard.  While the native irises don’t need much water, these do well in the yard because they do need regular watering.

iris1First color to bloom.

springyard9Behind the irises is a Crape Myrtle and a Bridal Spirea.  Coming up in the bed are Coneflowers and other perennials.  Although I have weeded the area, there are probably more weeds showing their persistent little heads.

“Never put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.”  Unknown

Mostly White Blooms

Continuing with my color theme.  These flowers all have white as part of their blooms.

bloomingnowiWhen we dug up this spiky plant from the field, we didn’t think it was a Yucca because the prevalent ones around here have wider and shorter green leaves.

bloomingnow4Since the proof is in the pudding, the flower in spring proved that it was indeed a Yucca.  The reason we had not seen this type blooming in the fields is that the cows probably chomped off the flowers as soon as the buds opened up.

bloomingnow5Their whitish and yellowish cluster is very distinctive.

bloomingnow6This Ornamental Onion plant was bought at a Garden Club plant sale several years ago.

bloomingnoweIts zany pods are actually clusters of individual onion bulbs that can be planted.  Its oniony smell is only noticeable if you brush up against it.

whiteOf all the different color Reblooming Iris in my yard, the white and creamy yellow ones are the only ones that actually do rebloom with any consistency.

flowerbushes6Several years ago I bought a sage (Salvia greggii)  that was labeled Lip Stick.  It has never really done anything and only bloomed the first season.

Then this year on the other side of the yard from that small scrawny bush, flowers on an Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) produced flowers that looked like the Lip Stick one.  I guess that means it is just a mutation.

Flowerbeds7This Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) returns each spring – sometimes in the same place and other times somewhere else in this flowerbed.

The tall plant with red flowers is a Hardy Hibiscus.

Flowerbeds8Guara definitely provides movement in the yard.  The wind blows these delicate flowers on long stems so that it looks like a dreamy dance.

This summer has surprised us all with temperatures still under 100, and it’s the middle of July.  A blessing to be enjoyed daily.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  Jim Ryun

 

 

 

 

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