Tall, Slender, and Elegant

Guess we all wish that title described us.  But, in this case, that means plants, not people.

Tall, of course, can be relative.   Larkspurs bloom on tall stems, as do Cannas, and the flowers of Red Yucca, so I’m including them.  Canna lilies, although not true lilies, grow from rhizomes and are faithful to return each spring.  Because they multiply, they are usually a pass-a-long plant.

One great thing about re-blooming Iris is that it flowers at unexpected times.

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) are a wonderful spring blooming annual, if you’re not picky about where it pops up in years to come.  They are generous re-seeders.

I had never considering planting their seeds until I saw them in a friend’s yard.  She generously shared some seeds; so I’ve enjoyed them ever since no matter where they appear.

Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba”)  is a small flowering tree with multiple trunks.  These tend to grow tall and remain slender.  The flowers look like lovely small orchids.

Desert Willows are native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Texas.

The thin stems of (Gaura Llindheimeri) keep growing taller throughout the hot months of summer until they hide whatever is behind them.  So I should have planted them in their own space, but I didn’t.

As they sway in the breeze, they are reminiscent of butterflies.  Thus a common name for them is Twirling Butterflies.

I also have a Pink Gaura which has reappeared after several years of being absent.  Gaura roots seem to endure very well.  They could be considered a bully, but I like them, anyway.

After my experience with Hollyhocks and Rust disease, I was undecided whether or not to dig up this one that came from some remaining roots.  After checking it over and keeping a close watch on it, it has survived disease-free and has produced beautiful flowers.  But it has been a rather dry spring.  If and when we get lots of rain, the disease will probably reappear.

Every year I rave about Henry Duelberg Saliva (Salvia farinacea).  I think it should be a staple that is used more often in zones 7b – 10a.

The white Augusta Duelberg Salvia (wife of Henry) is a companion that usually comes up in a bed of Henry Duelberg Salvia.  Don’t know how that works botanically.

In this picture, the Russian Sage is the tall slender beauty.  In front of it is Salvia Greggi and behind it is a huge Earthkind® rose bush on the left and Knockouts® on the right.

The hardiness and aroma of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) makes it a worthwhile plant, especially for arid areas.  It is native to the steppes, which are grassy plains, of southwestern and central Asia, so the name is appropriate.

Bee Balm or Monarda might not be considered elegant by some some people, but it’s a notable plant to attract pollinators.  Plus, I think it’s pretty, if it can be staked so that it won’t flop over.  I chose to put a cage around it to hold it up.

Gladiolus often need staking, but Atom Gladiola is a shorter version that doesn’t lean over too much.

These bulbs were ordered two or three years ago from Old House Gardens, which specializes in heirloom bulbs.

Although many of Old House Garden bulbs date back to the 1700’s, this particular bulb was hybridized in 1946.

The old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is true to many things, including plants.  So choose what plants you think fall into the category of tall, slender, and elegant.

“When life gives you a rainy day, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles.”  unknown

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Native or Not

Defining and identifying which plants are native is not easy because, first of all, there is no definitive definition.

Wikipedia definition:  “Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants). Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions.”

Sometimes it is difficult to find natives for sale at nurseries.  This False Foxglove was growing along our county road, so I dug up a couple of clumps about four years ago.

Texas Native Plant Society defines natives as plants that were growing naturally here when the European settlers came or plants that were growing naturally in this state at the beginning of the Holocene Recent Epoch, which began about 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age.

Really?

Actually, in Texas we are lucky to have Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center because they have native plant sales twice a year.

Another way to get natives is from a friend or an acquaintance.  This plant came from a garden club sale.  It is Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) that was growing in Texas at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, and thus is considered native by some botanists.

Now, how does anyone know that?  Is there a notebook somewhere that has descriptions and drawings of this plant?

The feathery soft leaves are nice in small vases with small flowers.

This was also bought at a garden club sale.  I thought it was native but after some research, I believe it is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine).  It is a sterile, non-reseeding variety.

Looks like it will grow much taller than I realized.  The reason it was planted in this cattle feeder was to shade the “feet” of a Clematis vine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of “native plant” is “a plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention.” That definition also might apply to many “naturalized” plants that were introduced long ago, but are now thriving and spreading without human intervention.

Dripping with blossoms, the Yellow Lead Ball Tree is a pretty small multi-branched tree.

Crossvine or Trumpet Flower (Bignonia capreolata) is a sought-after vine because it is a vigorous grower and has tubular flowers that draws pollinators.

Don’t confuse this with Trumpet Creeper or Cow-itch Vine (Campsis radicans) which is invasive.

Plants that were introduced by man during the last three hundred or so years and that have adapted to our landscape and climate are referred to as “naturalized.”  Some of these are aggressive and are considered invasive or noxious.

Mexican Buckeye or Texas Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) has pink/white flowers while it is leafing out and bears these unusual seed pods.  In fall the leaves are supposed to turn yellow.  This one was planted in early February.

Texas Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus var. berlandieri)is a Texas Native that has needle-like foliage.

It thrives in rocky bar ditches.

Long swaths of Pink Evening Primrose or Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) along the highway makes me want to stop and get up close to them.

Simple, yet lovely.

Native Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) does not like to be watered.  These appear in flower beds but die out if over watered.

Ox-eye  or Margarita Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgarde) is considered by many to be a native but is actually native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The whole idea of native versus non-native is a hot topic right now in Texas.  Some people are offended by planting anything but natives.  But as the definitions show, that is not an exact science.  Others think that natives do not belong in urban settings.

Personally, I plant what will survive and do well in my region.  If I like something that won’t survive our winter, then I put it in a pot.  Then it can be moved into a shed.  My philosophy:   be practical and lighten up.

Sorry this is so long.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.  I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont.”  Lady Bird Johnson

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What Is and Is to Come

Last days of winter – maybe.  Warms days followed by cold days creates a confusing message to nature.

The dried blossoms of Sedum Autumn Joy can be sprayed and used in flower arrangements.  Silver paint makes them look classy.

Plus, Sedum Autumn Joy is a wonderful succulent that is reliable.  Green leaves are already popping up.

Bi-color Iris (Dietes bicolor) or African Iris or Fortnight Lily forms a clump with long sword like leaves.  It’s a native to South Africa, so I’m hoping that it will recover from the hard freezes this year.

Texas Flowering Senna produces tons of seed pods.  After giving lots away, these were left.  The strange thing is that with all these seeds, there are no seedlings that come up under the bush.

Texas Flowering Senna displays stunning yellow flowers that last for about seven months.  Can’t wait.

The leaves of Red Yucca are still green but the tall flower stems are dry.  The flowers leave a hard shell with black seeds.

Most of its leaves are still clinging to one Red Oak in the yard.  The strong winds haven’t dislodged them  yet.  Before long, new leaves will sprout.

There are several varieties of Senna.  Not sure which one this is.

Interesting flower seed pods and branch forms.

Clusters of dried False Foxglove seed pods make me anxious for the return of their white petals with pink splotches.This time of year wild creatures are astiring.  A group of wild turkeys passed through behind the house.  Stealthily, I cracked open the back door and poked my camera through it.

From the road wild turkeys don’t appear to have much color, but a zoom lens shows their pretty feathers.

Looks like two old gossipers speaking solemnly about something.

Guess mating season has started, meaning new little ones.

Can you tell that I am ready for spring with its warm weather and pretty colors.  I know, I know.  It’s still February.  Just daydreaming.

“If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”  Joey Adams

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Heat Lovers

The title, Heat Lovers, refers to plants, definitely not me.

heatlovingDesignated a Texas Superstar Plant, the Texas Star Hibiscus, doesn’t look like a hibiscus.

heatloving1It has not been a heavy bloomer for me, but the flowers are unique.

heatlovingfTo me, the only reason to plant Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium Greggii A. Gray) is to attract butterflies.  These are truly covered from late spring to late fall with Viceroys.

The Bluemist has spread into Red Yuccas with sharp spikes.

heatloving2Bluemist flowers are small and not that noticeable or impressive.  The purple flowers to the right are a few larkspurs hanging on.

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heatlovingdOn the porch that provides indirect light, A Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) has outgrown its container.  That should be fun to transplant.

It was a pass along plant, and I’ve started several other pots from this plant.  Color of the flowers is so pretty.

heatlovingeIce plant has been in this pot for years.

heatloving3A Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba’) that is a couple of years old has gorgeous blooms.

heatloving4This will grow into a tree with several trunks that arch out from the center.

heatloving5Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is a wildflower that came from the same lady who gave me the Crown of Thorns. The seeds are carried by the wind, so it comes up in unexpected places.

heatloving6Rose of Sharon Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) must be watered regularly to bloom.  But it is so worth it.  The other bush with red blooms is Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica ‘Dynamite’).  Both of these bushes are about 10 years old..

heatloving7Love Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum (L.) Salisb. Ex G. Don SSP Russellianum) and Strawberry Gompheras (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) and Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

heatloving8One of my favorite flowering bushes, Duranta doesn’t begin to bloom until mid July when the temps rev up.

heatlovingaIt is in the verbena family.  The clusters of tiny flowers are breathtaking.

heatloving9Although Duranta does well in our hot, hot summers, it is iffy in cold weather.  Mine is on the east side of the house, so it gets morning sun and no direct northern winds.  A heavy mulch when it starts to get cold protects the roots.  So it’s a great plant if you have just the right place for it.

heatlovingbRecently we bought three new Crape Myrtles from a guy attending a gardening seminar.  He said that they are a new type called ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crepe Myrtle and will grow to 10 – 12 feet tall.

heatlovingcLove the color of the flowers and that they have been blooming since they were planted.

Right after these pictures were taken, some of the branches were broken off and the flowers eaten.  Jackrabbits, I think.  Grrr!   So I put cages around them to protect them.

“… it looks to me like the upcoming U.S. presidential election will force Americans, to paraphrase the great American writer Gore Vidal, to cast their ballot against the evil of two lessers.”  Ted Woloshyn

Purple Spires

Bright colors in the yard make me smile.  I prefer more muted colors inside my house but purple, red, and yellow are my favorite choices for flowers.

purple3Larkspurs are still blooming where ever they choose.  They aren’t well behaved and stay where they were first seeded.  It’s always a pleasant surprise to see where they come up each spring.  The reds here are Red Yucca and Cannas.  However, the Cannas seem to be blooming more orangey than before.  So I wonder if red ones are hybrids and they are reverting back to their original color.

purple9I have a conundrum.  For years I have thought this bush was Blue Curls.  I think I bought it at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Since I had never heard of Blue Curls before, I must have seen it labeled that, but I can’t be sure.

purple8I had previously noticed the similarity of the flowers and leaves to another bush in the back of the house.  But this morning for some reason it struck me that they are much more than similar.

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purple5You know how it is to get your mind set one way and not see the truth.  So I’m not going to beat myself up for this mistake.  But I do not think this is a Blue Curls.

purplecThis is a Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) tree in the back yard that was planted two years ago.  It was bought at a local nursery and was clearly labeled.

The following three pictures are of this same tree.

My reference point for a Vitex comes from a huge tree planted in the parking lot of the hospital in Brownwood.  So I didn’t expect one to look like a bush.

purpledDo you see my confusion?  I now think both are Vitex.  I have pruned the branches on the one in the front for several years to get it fuller, which has also kept it shorter.

purpleeAlso known as Chaste Tree, Lilac Chaste Tree, Hemp Tree, Sage Tree, or Indian Spice, it is a native of China and India.  But it has been grown in the southern US since 1670.

purplefDifferent parts of the tree have long been used for medicinal purposes.  Another name for Vitex is Monk’s Pepper because it was thought that its berries helped monks maintain their chastity.

It’s a great tree/shrub for pollinators.  The color of the blooms are fantastic.

purple4As I was taking pictures, a visitor strolled quickly by.

purpleffThe flower spires on Russian Sage are a light purple or lavender.

purpleiAlthough not a spire, these Petunias are a deep purple.

purplejThis pot was already filled when I bought it.  The lady did not know the names of the other two plants in it.

purplekThe foliage of Ajuga ground cover is more important to most people than the pale lavender blooms.

purplelAnd lastly, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is sandwiched between Greggi Sage and Rose bushes.  It has a wonderful aroma and is a great hardy perennial.

“Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Nolan of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God.”  Richmond, Virginia daily newspaper

Valentine Brunch

There was a Ladies’ Valentine Brunch at church on Saturday the 13th of February.  I was on the planning committee and was the decorator for the event.

brunch2There are many challenges to change our fellowship hall into a space that looks somewhat classy.  First, my sweet husband agreed to bring in the padded chairs from the chapel.  That made a huge difference rather than using the battered, mismatched folding metal chairs.

We also carried out some wall decorations, metal chairs, and other items that were eye sores.

My dear husband helped in so many ways.  It could not have been accomplished without him.

brunchThere is a large window opening into the kitchen, so I used sheers and lights to block out that view and added three arrangements for a little distraction and interest.

Later I noticed the gaps in the curtains and pulled those together.

brunch7Sheers on the windows gave the whole room a softer look.

brunch3There is no budget for such events, so I purchased items that can be used again for another function.  I had sprayed some vases for a previous luncheon, so those were used to hold artificial red and white roses.  Also, I sprayed dried items and and made beaded wires.

The dried items came from my yard, like Red Yucca pods, plus some Yucca pods from the field.  The clusters of seeds came from a small Vitex tree and a Burl Curls bush.  The bushy ends on a stem are dried flowers from Sedum Brilliant.  There are also some stems with dried flower pods from Rose of Sharon bushes.

brunch5Around the vases are paper heart chains. candles, and Bible verse cards.

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brunchcThere were five beaded wires in each vase.  On each wire were red, white and silver beads.  No two were alike.  They didn’t show up well in the pictures, so I took a picture of one alone.  I wandered all over the house trying to find a good spot for the photograph but couldn’t find one.  Finally settled on this photo.

brunchaThe serving table is 16 feet long.  Since it is in front of the kitchen window, I moved the larger vase to the corner at the end of the serving line.

The planning committee borrowed dishes from another church and brought flatware from home to make it more special than using paper plates and plastic utensils.  Volunteers washed dishes afterwards.

brunch1

brunch9This vase was on the drink table.  We found a great punch recipe on the internet.  It’s called Grandma’s punch and was really delicious and was red.

brunchbWe had a duet, a solo, and a short devotional.  Another lady was in charge of the games, which were a big success.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.  So the hours of preparation were worth it.

“Three things can’t be hidden: coughing, poverty, and love.”          Yiddish Proverb

Shades of Red Flowers

“The Lady in Red” movie title, which I haven’t seen, indicates that red is an eye catching color.  Maybe the cut of the dress was, too.  Anyway, red in the yard definitely draws the eye.

redpinkdRed Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and red Cannas both are easy red focuses and relatively inexpensive choices.  Since cannas multiple, plenty of space is needed for them to spread out.

Red Yuccas should not be planted where I put these.  The problem is that surrounding plants grow into them.  Now I know why I’ve seen them planted alone in a graveled area.  It’s almost impossible to pull intruding plants out of a yucca without wearing some kind of armor.

redpink8The height of the flower stalks on Red Yuccas make them a focal point.

redpinkaHummingbirds like the tubular flowers.  Another name for Red Yucca is Hummingbird Yucca.  I don’t know how much nectar they actually get from them, but they look like they’re feeding.

redpinkbThis Drummond Phlox (Phlox drummondii ‘Hook’)  bloomed but has since faded away.  I bought it at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at their April plant sale.  Maybe it’s one of the casualties from a wet May.

redpinkrKangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos Red) is an Australian native that is supposed to be hardy to zone 8.  I’m a little leery that it will make it through our winter, so it will probably remain a pot plant which is taken into the shed when cold weather comes.

The label said they make good cut flowers.  If they produce lots of flowers, I’ll try that.  The color is unusual and seems to change every time I look at it.

redpink9Flowers on Bubba Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis ‘bubba’ Desert Willow) are almost orchid like with nice colors.  I have two on opposite sides of the house.  They haven’t bloomed much yet this year.  But they do well in the heat and should burst out in blooms soon.

redpink3Red Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Red’ Red Autumn Sage) is highly recommended for drought tolerant gardens.  It’s a woody shrub that returns each spring.

redpink4The aroma of the leaves when you brush up against them is an added bonus.

redpinkmA pot of begonias on a patio table is a bright spot of color that I can enjoy both outside and from a kitchen window.

redpink7Mr. Lincoln hybrid Roses are a bold red.

redpinkcCrimson Pirate Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Crimson Pirate’) was planted last spring and did very well this year.  The stalk on this variety was only 1 to 1 1/2′ tall, which is nice for the front of the bed.

Even though daylilies only flower in the spring, these bloomed for weeks.  Every year I become more of a daylily fan.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.”  Corrie ten Boom