Deep Freeze and Hearts

The winter storm we have just endured in Texas is one of those for the history books.  I’ve done a little research about temperatures in Texas.  The highest ones in the summer were 120 degrees in Monahans in 1994 and 120 degrees in Seymour in 1936.  That’s no surprise.  But the lowest in Tulia in 1899 and in Seminole in 1933 was minus 23.

But I think our minus 1 might it for this century.  At least, I hope so.

Like most of Texas, we had electric rolling blackouts.  Luckily, we stayed warm with a fireplace and lots of cover.

Only wild creatures would wander out in these temperatures.

The worst part has been no water.  The pipes have been frozen for 6 days.  Even as the snow melts and the temperatures are rising, we still have no water.  My husband has brought in snow to melt in order to flush commodes.

The hardships of winter.  I truly sympathize with northerners who put up with this every year.

Continuing with the Valentine hearts theme, February reminds us what love means.  It is caring more about the other person than yourself.

Am I the only one who loves the smell of Rosemary?  I consider it romantic.  Also, it’s a great herb to use in roasted vegetables.

“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”  Marilyn Monroe

Today the heart shape is widely used as a symbol of love.  Remember exchanging valentines in grade school?  And the teasing?

Heart with sedge.  This Sedge was planted and is not the invasive kind.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”   Oscar Wilde.

Old fashioned Geranium.

Obviously, this Bleeding Hearts is not in my garden.  Our soil is too alkaline.  I did try one in a pot years ago.  I think our heat got to it.

Anyway, it’s a perfect heart shape.

“Roses are red…”  Nope.  These are steel, made by my niece, who is a welder.  They’re unique and heavy.

Stay warm.  This month is turning out to be a lollapalooza.

“Ninety percent of being married is just shouting ‘what’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Valentines from the Garden

Valentine’s Day has a non-romantic past since it comes from the martyr of Saint Valentine on February 14 in AD 269.  In AD 496 a pope declared that day to be known as Saint Valentine’s Day to honor his death.

The origin of the shape of the heart used as a symbol to denote love and romance is hard to nail down.  It may have come from the shape of a pod of a plant or from Aristotle describing the heart as having three chambers with a small dent in the middle.

Leaves of Sweetheart Hoya ( Hoya kerrii Craib) shaped like hearts in front of a soft Artemisia plant.

 

Buried in snow twice this winter, these Pincushion flowers (Scabiosa caucasica) just keep on blooming.  We’re poised, like most of the country, for another winter blast of extremely low temperatures and maybe ice or snow.

So these plants as well as others, such as tender shoots from bulbs, will freeze again. Life is unpredictable, just like the weather.

Bright red “Strawberry Fields” Gomphrena.

Woodland Fern grows really well in the ground here in a mostly shady area.

Always on the lookout for stones naturally formed like hearts.

Hope your February is filled spending time with those you love.  The isolation makes it hard to achieve that.  But phone calls count.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

“I love you with all my belly.  I would say heart, but my belly is bigger.”  unknown

Winter in Reality

Most years we don’t have any winter weather.  There’s a few days of freezing temperatures, but no precipitation to create a wintery scene.

So sometimes we help Mother Nature along.  This was a time when it was below freezing and we forgot to turn off the sprinkler system in the flower beds.

With the sprinkler head on the other side of this trellis, a different view shows up.

Same flower bed and icicles hang from a birdhouse.

Another time it rained during the night and it was so cold that the moisture froze on plants and branches.  Henry Duelberg Salvia soaked up the water making very thick ice on the small branches.

The ice makes for a dramatic beauty.

I guess people who live where winter is severe and common aren’t as enamored with these scenes as we are.

Ice on a Chinese Pistache looks lacy, especially with the green of a Live Oak framing it in the background.

Shrubs that I can’t identify at this point.  A different Live Oak provides the backdrop.

The Live Oak and shrubs taken from the back porch.

Evergreen Cherry Laurel sags under the weight of ice. In the background, the ridge looks like someone shook some powdered sugar over the trees.

Up close to the Cherry Laurel.

Branches from another Chinese Pistache draping in front of a metal pergola.

A Yaupon Holly.

Texas Kidney Bush (Eysenhardtia texana) gets its name from the fact that Indians and settlers used the beans in the pods as treatment for kidney problems.

A rose hip encased in ice.

Our winter, if we have one, usually occurs in January.  Ice is more common than snow, and it is hazardous to travel on icy roads.  Crews usually cover the highways with sand or tiny gravel.  But the backroads are not treated, so we usually stay home until it melts.

“If I’m walking on thin ice, I might as well dance my way across.”  Mercedes Lackey

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

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

Good Repeats

With so many flowers continuing to bloom, this autumn has been like a second spring.  As crazy as it sounds, cool weather in autumn is not the norm here.  It’s been a special treat this year.

The purchase of two small plants in 4″ pots made about 10 years ago has turned out to be one of my best buys.  Bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) is always a welcome sight.  Since it’s an annual that reseeds freely, large groups of it show up each spring.

A Hardy Hibiscus that was bought about 10 years ago at a garden club plant sale has proved to be a boon.  Anything with the word “hardy” (meaning cold hardy for our area) in its name can withstand our dry and hot summer, as well as our sometimes extreme cold periods.

This Oxalis or Shamrock plant has been in this same pot for about eight years.  By the end of summer, the leaves are bedraggled, but the flowers look fresh.

This Coral Honeysuckle bush (Lonicera sempervirens L.) is only three years old.   It doesn’t look as well as it did in the spring, but there are flowers for the pollinators.  Another great performer.

The plant everyone loves to complain about is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex).  It’s an aggressive spreader.  But if there’s room for it, it is hardy to the extreme and will become an old standby .  This grouping started out as one single cutting that I took twenty years ago.

Personally, I love the color of the flowers.  They are not shy about blooming.  So it has its pluses.  Mexican Petunias are native to Mexico and further south.

“Calories are tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.”  unknown

Utility Areas

Most all houses have them – those areas where gardening tools are stored or where the nitty gritty of potting, etc. are done.  Sometimes they’re screened off or hidden behind large shrubs, especially in towns or cities.

In the country, sometimes those storage places are placed at the edge of a yard or some distance from the house.

We have two identical sheds built at different times that serve gardening functions.  To make them somewhat a part of the landscape, there are some container plants around them.

Shown on the left is a pot of Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea) and Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) on the right.  Both of these are favorites because the color is bold, and both are so reliable.

Henry Duelberg, also known as Mealy Sage, is a hardy Texas native perennial.  Gomphrena, also known as Rio Grande globe amaranth, is an annual but reseeds freely.

The area around the sheds is bare ground.  On both sides of the concrete entrance to this shed, Gomphrena came up as volunteers.  The wind or birds brought the seeds from a flowerbed in the yard.

The Gomphrena has flourished here better than in the yard.  Obviously, their preference is for less water.

Several pots are displayed around the sheds.  Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetiiis) is growing in the center pot.

Blue Potato Bush or Paraguay Nightshade is an evergreen in South America.

Here, it’s proven to be a good perennial, even in a pot.  If the winter temps drop past the teens, that might not be the case.

Firebush (Hamelia patens) really is a tropical that has to be carried into the shed in the winter.  It can survive in lower Texas and never looks as lush here as it does there.

White flowered Rose Moss with White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) in a pot provides a nice blend of both plants.

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.  True power is sitting back and observing things with logic.  True power is restraint.  If words control you, that means every else can control you.  Breathe and allow things to pass.”  Warren Buffet

Discouraged by Summer?

Weary of summer?  I certainly am.  Every year the crispy plants and hot, hot temperatures make me question why I live in upper central Texas.  But then in winter, it all feels worth it.

Reliable perennials make gardening easier.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) doesn’t mind the heat as much as I do.  Being in the shade helps.

It just keeps on blooming and stretching out with stems growing longer and longer. It is a good ground cover and so easy to root in water.  So, I just share it with anyone who wants it.

I’ve heard the flowers called Moses in a basket.  This picture doesn’t show it, but it does look like the flower is nestled in a small little boat.

Year after year, Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) has come back in the same pot.  The plant has been in this pot for about 20 years.  Even though it’s called a fern, it is not a true fern.  It’s in the family of lilies and tulips.

Semi-shade or just morning sun makes this a happy camper.

And every year, tiny little flowers bloom.  These flowers turn into red berries that contain the seeds.

Obedience Plant or False Dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana) doesn’t even begin to bloom until August.  This year it looks sparse.  I think a vine growing in it has hindered its success.

Greggii Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii)  just keeps on giving.  The butterflies continue to land there and feed away.  A must-have plant for gardeners desiring butterflies.

I’ll end with this reminder for us all:

“When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Count Your Many Blessings hymn

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