Books, Nurseries, Capitol

On a recent visit to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, we made stops at some nurseries.  No surprise there.

In the parking lot of a nursery, this flaming red Celosia is a magnet.  This one is probably Dragon’s Breath Celosia.  Celosias are annuals, so I don’t plant them much.  I would love to get Celosia to reseed.  Anyone know a trick?

This Texas native Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads and flops but has beautiful bright flowers.  In full sun, it stands more upright.

An unusual characteristic is that it grows well in arid West Texas and in boggy Houston, which is in extreme Southeast Texas.  A versatile plant that is hardy and grows in the sun or shade.

A stand of these natives were also in the parking lot.  Maybe it’s Threadleaf Groundsel?

Inside the nursery, this Dwarf Thurderhead Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Black Pine’ ) grows naturally in ball tufts.  Could be a nice focal point in a garden.

Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea (Lamiaceae)) is a hardy native perennial.  Love the deep purple.

Another beauty is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), which grows extremely well in the mild winters of Austin.  It freezes in my area.  I do love the soft velvet look.

Grasses have used in many public and some private landscapes for several years. Finally, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and want more in my yard.  There are so many varieties available now that it’s difficult to choose.

Every fall the book festival is held in the capitol building and in many large white tents set up on the streets around the capitol.  Authors from all over the US and some from abroad talk about their subjects.

It’s a haven for book lovers.

The artist for this cowboy sculpture was a New Yorker who created it in the early 1900’s.

Here’s Mexican Bush Sage used in the landscape.

Several monuments are scattered in the large area surrounding the capitol.

This monument honors the southerners who died in the Civil War.

Not that I’m prejudged, but this is a beautiful capitol building.  Inside, the impressive dome area and other public areas make it worth a visit.

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”           P. J. O’Rourke

Autumn or Summer?

After weeks of cool, rainy weather, it’s back to hotter days and sunshine.  As we transition from summer to autumn, the plants and trees seem to be confused by the mixed message.

Some Hardy Hibiscus flowers appeared after rain.

And a few Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have flowered, although they look a little anemic.

Queen Butterflies continue to feed on the blossoms still on the Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  And behind that, purple flowers on Mexican Petunia still hang on.

But other plants, like this Firebush (Hamelia patens) are showing Autumn color.  It’s not winter hardy here, so it will go inside.

All the flower clusters on this Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea x moonshine) had died, but the other day, new flowers were glowing in the bright sun.

Trees are the biggest evidence of fall color.  This Red Oak has never looked this red before.  I know it takes a combination of rain and cool weather in certain amounts and a certain amount of time for leaves to change color.  I guess those colder rainy days did the trick.

This Mexican Flame vine is supposed to love the heat and bloom away during the summer.  However, it seems to prefer less heat than advertised and definitely enjoys extra water.

Petunias have always seemed fragile to me, but they have proved to be very hardy and resilient with filtered light.

Chinese Pistachio always has some orange color during the fall.  The leaves of the Eve’s Necklace to the left are turning yellow.

Several rose bushes, like this Double Delight are still producing gorgeous flowers.  This year some of the bushes have been stripped by a brown caterpillar.  I didn’t realize this until too late.  Most of those bushes are David Austin roses.  It’s all a mystery to me.

This small Shantung Maple tree struggled for many years to live during our extremely hot summers.  Each year it holds its leaves a little longer.  Most of the leaves from the upper branches are now on the ground.

Rock Rose (Pavonia Malvaceae) and Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) still have flowers.  Both of these plants are so hardy – perfect for our area.

Lovely Dianthus blooms a long time.  Of course, this one would have more flowers if I was diligent about deadheading.

Surprisingly, African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa hasn’t suffered from some colder nights.  All of these tropical or semi-tropical plants will have to go inside soon.

Looking out into the fields, a bright spot of color is unexpected among all the dead brush.  This Sumac is from the Rhus family.  Some Sumacs are poisonous, but I don’t know if this variety is.

In another direction, some leaves are turning.  The full pond is a welcome gift from all the recent rains.

Don’t you love this time of the year!

“When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.”  Minnie Aumonier

Most Unusual Autumn

Rain, Rain, Rain!  So far, rainfall this month has been 11 inches.  To put that into prospective:  the average yearly rainfall here is 27 inches.  The total for 2017 was 19 inches.  So yikes, there’s flooding.  But it’s not as desperate here as it in some Texas towns, like Llano.

The temperatures have fallen in the last week to high 30’s.  Normally at this time, it’s still in the 90’s.  Some Halloweens, poor trick or treaters sweat under their costumes.  This year they may shiver.

I’m using pictures that were taken a week or so ago because we can’t get out of the house.  We also can’t get across the low water crossings because they are dangerously high with fast moving water.

The berries on the Pistachio trees precedes the leaves turning orange.  Pistachio gets bad press because they ‘re native to China.  But they do great here.  Love them.

In between some of the earlier rains, we walked out to one of the ponds.  This Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) caught my eye.  These bushes are in the same family as coffee bushes and are native to southern and eastern U. S.  This and all the other ponds are now flowing over their banks.

In spite of the crazy temperatures and abundant rain, many flowers are still blooming in the yard.  This Purple Oxalis (Oxalis regnelliihas) has survived many years in a pot, which is taken inside for the winter.  The common name of Shamrock comes from the shape of the leaves.

Cooler weather brings out the Reblooming Irises.  The Strawberry Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) will hang on until it freezes.  But, hooray, it reseeds.

Purple Hearts keep on blooming and reaching outwards until it freezes.

Purple asters make their appearance when it cools down. I think these are Aster oblongifolius.

A couple of years ago, I divided them and planted some to come on around the end of this bed.

Thornless Crown of Thorns is a beauty with blooms that last from spring until it freezes.  Since it is not cold hardy, it goes into the shed.  This one is much more human friendly since it doesn’t bring blood if you get near it.

Native and drought tolerant Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris Scaposa (DC.) Greene) are still going strong.  This bed drains well, so they’ve survived all the rain.

Large group of Gomphrena in the back draws the eye to their direction.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensisis) is native throughout the Caribbean, so it’s more tropical than our area location but does well in a container.  I like the long stems with small flowers.  Beside it is a Kalanchoe and a Spider Plant with two Boston Ferns in the back.

We normally moan about the heat and lack of rain.  It’s definitely been an early wet fall.

“Everyone wants happiness.  Nobody wants pain.  But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”  unknown

Walk on the Wild Side

Boerne offers the beauty of central Texas, caves, and nature al natural.

Cibolo Nature Center offers many different experiences.  At the beginning of the trailhead that wanders through the wild areas is a stone replica of tracks of a giant reptile.

The Acrocanthosaurus lived in the Crtaceous Period about 100 million years ago.  The original tracks were removed for safe keeping and replaced with an exact replica.

The Texas Native Prairie Trail reminds people how important the tall grass prairies are to the central plains, and that they are an endangered ecosystem.

Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) has popped up among the grasses.

Poverty Willow (Baccharis neglecta) sways in the wind.  Although it looks totally untouched, this prairie is actually managed with controlled burns and is used for research.

This looks like Common Wild Petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).  If that’s what it is, a couple of petals have sheared off of each flower.

Many types of grasses grow in this pocket prairie including big Bluestem, Indian grass, and Switch grass.
The Woodlands trail provides shade from large oaks.  This could be a Four O’Clock ( Mirabilis jalapa).
Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) is so named because a few degrees under freezing, the dead stems split at the base and exude a thin, curling shaving of ice.
The Cibolo Creek runs through the property and provides a Marshland trail.  As the shoes indicate, a young mother and her children crossed over to the marshland.  The crossing looked iffy for me with poor balance, so we skipped that part.  Plus, we were both overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.
This looks like Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea) found growing in limestone soils.
Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) is a bright flower that stands up tall on its stem (about 18 inches).  The tall dome is usually black/brown, but has already lost its seeds and now has a white top hat.
Closer to the Visitor Center is a small garden with hardy plants.  Rosemary has a few blooms left.
Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinumare) are usually covered with butterflies.  These are smaller, probably because they don’t receive water, except from rain.
There are a couple of caves near Boerne.  We visited Cave Without a Name, which is on private property, but open to the public.  This picture shows the original entry that was discovered when a farm animal became stuck in it.
The cave is a U.S. National Natural Landmark.
Thankfully, it now has concrete stairs leading down into the cave.  A few Tricolored Bats
(Perimyotis  subflavus) inhabit the cave.  They are smaller than the more common Mexican Free Tails found in Texas and don’t live in colonies.
 
The cave went unnoticed until a couple of guys during prohibition thought it was a good spot to produce moonshine.
It was officially opened by the land owner in in 1939.  He held a state wide naming contest.  A young boy said that it was too beautiful to have a name and thus, won the $250 prize.
A constant temperature of 66 degrees makes it comfortable to visit.  Cavers have mapped out over 2.7 miles of caverns.
Six large rooms with many different formations are part of the guided tour.
The cave is subject to flooding when heavy rains occur.
An hour tour is the perfect length for most people.
If you’re looking for a get-away week-end and live in Texas, I recommend Boerne and its attractions.  The shopping is good and not nearly as crowded as some of the other Hill Country touristy towns.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

Community Garden

The pictures in this post were taken at a Community Garden in the small town of Menard.  There are raised beds that can be rented for growing vegetables.  The garden is also used to teach Jr. Master Gardeners. They have a separate section with raised beds for them.

A large section of the garden contains different bushes, flowers, and vines.  This is a type of Salvia.

The flowers on Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) have a velvet look and feel.  The problem is that it needs warmer winters.  So, alas, it freezes back when I try to grow it.  But it is a gorgeous plant.

Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana) also needs more tropical growing conditions.

The unique flowers have the paper-thin look of Bougainvillas.  The actual flower is the white part.

Zinnas are an economical way to bring color into the garden.  So easy to grow.

A must for Texas gardens:  Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii.).  Queen Butterflies flock to it.

Morning Glory Tree (Ipomoea carnea) loves our heat but not the freezing winter times in my area.

The rains have made it difficult to keep up with weeding.  Since this garden is manned by volunteers, it’s easy to see how it’s possible to be crowded with plants growing unchecked.

One couple teaches the Jr. Master Gardeners and takes care of this garden.  They recruit volunteers whenever possible.  What a heart for their community.

Another tropical plant is Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  Their bright color certainly steals the scene and makes us all drool for one.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned that no matter how much you want some plants, if they won’t survive the winter, forget them.

Just look at that flower that screams the Caribbean Islands.

Now back to a solid performer.

Esperanzass (Tecoma Stans) are coveted for their beautiful yellow tubular flowers.  Mine always freeze.  Some people say they have better luck than I do.

And what would a Texas garden be without a pepper plant.  Not sure which one this is.

Good old Zinnas grow wherever there is a little bit of soil.

Anyone with a garden anywhere knows that plant choices are important.  Sometimes we cannot plant something we really like.

“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  John F. Kennedy

Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

Hardy and a Surprise

Plants that stand up to weather and time are excellent investments.

This Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is about 11 years old and continues to thrive in its small confined place.

It’s a large shrub with clusters of unusual yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) has been another survivor.  It’s also about 11 years old.

Although it’s a tropical plant, it can survive here if it’s planted in a place protected from north winds.  So it’s not a shoo-in for our area.

Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) is the best plant to attract Queen butterflies.  The flowers themselves are unimpressive, but they definitely provide the needed nectar.

If you plant them, they will come.  And stay for the duration until winter.

Always a pleasure to look out the window and see the flurry of activity on these flowers.

Also very hardy is a large variety of weeds that are tenacious.  It’s a constant struggle to keep them out of the flowerbeds.  But that’s to be expected since we live in the middle of pastures.

Pink Surprise Lily or Naked Lady (Lycoris squamigera) was definitely a surprise for me this year.  According to my records, the bulb was planted 4 years ago and has never bloomed before.

At zone 8a, we’re out of its normal range.  The optimum zones are 6a to 7b.  When it was planted, the zone maps put our area at 7b.  Revised maps show we’re in a hotter zone.

I’ve since learned that the best growing conditions include a cold, long winter.  Since we did have colder temperatures and a later spring, I guess that explains why it finally bloomed.  Also, this lily prefers a dry, hot summer.  Voila.  We have that in spades.

The leaves appear first and die; then the naked stem with flowers appear.

Iron Weed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a native that grows in bar ditches and bloom with some moisture.  They can be gangly growing 3 ft. tall with flowers right at the top of the stem.  Their best feature is the purple color of the flowers.

I got a fistful of seeds from a friend about 4 years ago.  The plants reseed and will spread out.

“Respect old people.  They graduated high school without Google or Wikipedia.”  unknown

In the Good Old Summertime

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.”

This song comes from the Tin Pan Alley group of New York City music publishers and songwriters that started in 1885 and went through the early 1900’s.  It was originally the name for a specific area in the Flower District of Manhattan.

To me, the good old summertime means what’s happening in my yard because of the heat and lack of rain.

These are the small palm tree looking stalks that forecast the blooming of Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius).  In spite of the name, they are drought tolerant.  The stalks will reach 7 feet with small sunflowers by the end of August.

Reliable Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), a Texas native, continues to flower with their cute little turbans.  It grows well in most parts of the state in sun or shade.

A great plant for our super hot summers.

There are two birds that we can count on every summer:  Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.  The creation on top of this Hummingbird feeder is the work of Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallows are pretty birds that look for a ledge where they build a nest of mud, grasses, twigs, etc.  The birds stand on these ledges and poop all over whatever is beneath that ledge.  They also return to the same nesting area each year.  This includes their young as adults.  Swooping in low, they almost run into your head.

Because the population had increased so much and nested under our covered front and back patios, there was always a mess on the floor.  So, we hired a carpenter to eliminate the ledges.

Although they are fewer in number this year, they now build nests on the brick walls and anything up high like where this feeder was hanging.

What a mess to clean up.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial bush that stands up to the heat.  It’s pale color isn’t too showy, but the scent of its foliage is wonderful.  The bees also love it.

The perennial Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) does well in the heat if it’s watered.

Bees flock to its small flowers.

“There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air.”  Peter Mayle

Summer White

Generally, brightly colored flowers are my first choice for the yard.  However, white ones add sophistication and calm in the garden.

This Moon Flower, Thorn-apple, or Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii Regel) usually produces pure white flowers.  This one has a slight pinkish tinge.  Not sure why.  This is a shady area most of the day with some early morning light.

Please ignore the clutter below the flower.

Datura is a narcotic and if ingested, could be lethal.

This Butterfly plant is in a container.  It seems to have done better in the heat than the ones in a flowerbed.  It could be because I’m more conscientious about watering potted plants because I’m afraid they will dry out quickly.

White Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) is a pollinator magnet, plus it looks lovely swaying in the wind.  Note the visitor in the upper right corner of picture.

This Purple Datura actually looks white with a hint of purple along the edges of the petals.  Pictures on the internet show some with a deep purple color.  The Purple Datura originates several places in Asia.

The leaves also differ from the white Datura.

Daturas are annals that have large, prickly seeds that drop to the ground.  If conditions are good, a new plant will grow.  Or the seeds can be saved to start new plants.

Night bloomers, so early morning is the time to see their flowers.

Love the double petals.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia trachysperma) is in the Cleonmaceae family and has the look of the more popular Spider Flower or Cleome.

Seeds from Clammy Weed from a friend who is into natives.  Plant one and have a generous crop next year.

The plant’s height is about a foot tall.  Many consider it a weed, like the name.  And, it is definitely sticky or clammy.

One characteristic of the Southern Crinim Lily is the growth of the bulb to a large size and the multiplication of the bulb.  While it may be difficult to dig up, it’s a great pass-along plant that will be appreciated by the person receiving it.

The flowers tend to droop slightly.

There are conflicting views on the web – what?  Old views say that white clothes are cooler in the heat, while darker ones absorb the heat.  This view was practiced by the rich in the 18th and 19th century.

New views espouse that black is actually cooler because skin is hot in the summer and therefore reflects the heat back to the body from a white garment.

Anyway, white looks cool in the summer.  Just enjoy whichever floats your boat.

“It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight.  What untold wealth!”   Rabindranath Tagore

Shades of Pink

Color in the yard provides a lift to the spirit.  Especially when the summer heat is parching everything.

One characteristic of a Desert Rose (Adenium obesum), is a swollen trunk just above the soil level.

The flowers on this succulent are lovely.  Because it is a desert plant, it must be protected inside during the winter.  Strangely, it does better in filtered light rather than direct sun.

A gift from a bird has multiplied into a small forest of Germanders.  They are in the mint family with clusters of tiny flowers with a touch of pink inside each petal.  This variety grows to be about a foot tall.

Nothing like annual Petunias to bring some pizzazz.

Good old faithful succulent Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia) returns every year when the weather warms up.  This one has been in a pot for years.  Because our winter was so cold, it took longer to spring back and bloom.

Basket Flower (Plectocephalus americanus) is native to the southwest.  The buds look like thistles.  But this one isn’t prickly.

By the middle of summer, the buds dry and the flower is almost white.

But the pollinators aren’t picky about the color.

One of my all time favorite flowers is Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).  The common name seems so wrong since they are pink rather than purple.  It generously reseeds making for some surprising locations of new plants each spring.

The round red flowers are Strawberry Gomphera.

When the sunlight hits coneflowers just right, they glow.

Even without petals, their dome-shape form is so attractive.  Just can’t say enough good things about these wonderful garden charmers.

“A mind is like a parachute.  It doesn’t work if it is not open.”  Frank Zappa