Critters in the Yard

When critters that we love and the ones that we don’t like, enter into our space, it makes life interesting.

Butterflies are my all favorite critter in the yard.  This Queen is feasting on Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Snakes terrify me.  This one scaled a six foot pole.  It went inside the hole of the birdhouse and slithered back out.  Don’t know if it was hoping for bird eggs or just bored.

This is a bluebird house and since we haven’t had any bird birds nest there, it’s just ornamental.

This snake may be harmless, but that doesn’t matter to me.  Makes me cringe.

Occasionally, a wild turkey wanders around the yard.  They are skittish and react to the slightest noise.

Pretty feathers, but it looks like it was designed by a committee.

A small bird kept flying out of this flowerpot on the back porch.  It looked like a Tufted Titmouse but moved too quickly for a photo.

Finally, when I was watering this old Kalanchoe, I spotted the reason.  Twigs had been brought into the pot and sort of a tunnel built to where the eggs were laid.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), a Texas native, draws lots of pollinators.

As the wind sways the tall stems, bees and other pollinators hang on.

Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) loves this shaded spot and covers this plot quickly each spring.

Remnants of a spider web can be seen on the top of the wheel.

This ruffled Coleus was recently propagated from a large one.  The stems grow quickly.  Very attractive.

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Summertime

“Summertime and the living is easy.”  I guess that’s true in a certain sense.  If possible, people do tend to get inside during the midday hours.  As a child, there was no air conditioning.  So we were expected to lay down for a nap during the hottest hours.  However, that luxury isn’t available for the ranchers and others who have to be outside all day here.

For the gardeners, summer means that most work has to be done before noon and much more watering is needed.  If you have a lot of plants in containers, it means lots of hand watering.

Fortunately, there are plants that love the sunshine and heat.  This is a hardy Hibsicus that I got at a club plant sale years ago.  It a generous re-seeder.  The flowers are about 4 inches wide.

This year I was able to locate a hardy Hibiscus with larger flowers.  These are 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  I was looking for the ones with dinner plate size flowers but couldn’t find them in red.

These aren’t true red but close.  So far, they’ve bloomed profusely.

Datura or Moon flowers perform well in the heat as long as they aren’t in direct sun.  They open at night and last until just after noon.

Everyone is being encouraged to plant milkweed to help Monarchs survive.  The most common one here is Antelopehorns (Asclepias asperula), which is a native and grows in our fields.  However, I wanted one that is prettier in the yard.  Thankfully this one, Texas Milkweed (Asclepias texana), survived the winter in a pot.

Although Kolache is not winter hardy, it’s a go-to plant for containers in mostly shady areas.  Kolaches grow large and are easy to propagate.  Just break off a stem and stick it into potting soil.  Keep the soil moist, not wet, until it produces roots and begins to grow.  They’re great pass-along plants.

Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis) are wispy, small accent trees.  The orchid-like flowers are lovely.

The flower colors range from light pink to a darker pink or lavender.

Always a trustworthy perennial summer bloomer, Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) is aggressive, so be prepared with space for it to spread.  A low to the ground variety does not spread, so it’s an option.

In this picture a flower stalk from Red Yucca is draping over the petunias.Dainty flowers that last a day.  What is that white bug?  Only noticed it when the picture was enlarged.

If your summer months are extra hot, hope you can enjoy some cheerful flowers and some cool air conditioning.

“People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”  Dumbledore (Harry Potter book)

Carmel Valley

Expectations are often disappointed.  We were prepared for mild mid 70’s weather in Carmel.  In reality, it was mostly mid to low 60’s.  Too chilly for us coming from high 90’s.  So we were pleased one day to drive into the valley away from the sea.

The green rolling hills and farms of the valley were a breathe of fresh air away from the crowded area of all the towns bunched around Carmel.

Although we saw these plants on tall stems growing everywhere, no one was able to identify them.  Notice that the hen and chick looking head was green, black,

or red.  Does anyone know their name?

The other plant that I loved were these hibiscus looking flowers on tall stems.

The warmer valley could have been mistaken for parts of New Mexico.

A wide diversity of cacti and succulents added interest to the small town.

A long planting of Lavender and the light purple flowers of Agapanthus or Lily of the Valley on the other side of the fence complemented each other nicely.  They seemed to be thriving all over the areas we visited because of the mild winters.

Don’t know why this fence fascinated me.  No one else seemed interested.

Great plant holder in a boutique/antique store.

This little lady welcomed all the shoppers.

Finally, part of this ubiquitous plant’s flowering color had not faded yet.  Even past its blooming time, it’s an interesting plant.

Loved the open spaces and warmth of the valley.  Just a country girl at heart.

“Social and media should not be used together because it becomes an oxymoron.”  unknown

Carmel

Carmel proved to be just as pristine and unique as expected.

The downtown shopping area was adorned with flowers in pots and beds everywhere available for planting.

Bougainvilleas were huge, full of blooms and gorgeous.  The mild climate allows every bush and vine to flourish.  The Morning Glory in the foreground is climbing up the building.

Upscale shopping is the name of the game.  Lots of tempting shops.

The succulents on tall stems are everywhere along the coast but I couldn’t find anyone that could give them a name.  The pot to the lower right contains Cigar Plant (Cup0hea ignea).  Should have gotten a closer picture of that.

Landscapers must do a booming business in this town.

The lavender colored flowers are probably Pincushion flowers.

Lovely sentimental bronze statue.  Note the heart in her hand.

All different kinds of architecture.

But the one that surprised me were the Hobbit looking ones.

Probably cost a lot of money to get this roof that looks like a drunk laid the shingles.

Sunglasses in a bush – very Californian.

Another ubiquitous succulent with lovely pink flowers.  Wonder if it’s too hot here to grow that.  But I would need to know its name.

Wondered if this pot is hypertufa.  And how is it attached?

Wandered into a storybook setting.

An outdoor eating area of a restaurant with a fire pit attracts these Western Bluebirds.  No one seemed to be worried that they might land on their plate.

Just doesn’t get any quainter than this.

The source of those mysterious dried flowers that come in florist arrangements.  When dried, Purple Statice Sea Lavender outlasts the fresh flowers by a long shot.

Had a lovely day strolling in and out of shops.  But mostly, the flower caught my attention.

Good-bye to Spring

As an unusually long, cool, wet spring comes to an end, we’re all counting our blessings.  This wonderful weather has been wide spread and a real treat.  It’s near the end of June and no really hot temperatures.  Hooray.It’s sad to say good bye to the spectacular show of Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum.)

Daisies are one of my favorite flowers.  Emphasis on the word “one”.  A Painted Lady is enjoying a flat landing spot.

Many gorgeous spirals on the Vitex or Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has brought a sweet fragrance to the back yard.

In the front yard, another Vitex, but it almost seems like a different species.  The blossoms are smaller, a paler color, and not scented.  In front of the Vitex are some Flame Acanthus, which just keep spreading.

In late fall, I cut both Vitex back severely to keep them from becoming large trees because those are not nearly as attractive.

This flowerbed is anchored by the Vitex and a large Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Between the large bush/trees are Cone Flowers and Rock Roses by the sidewalk.

Behind the Cone flowers is a Bridal Wreath Spiraea, a small Crepe Myrtle, and some Mexican Feather Grass.  So this bed is crammed full.

Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) are also waning, although some will hang on through the summer.

Another absolute favorite.

The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima) hasn’t totally greened up yet.  This is considered to be invasive but that hasn’t happened in this bed.

The ground cover around the Vitex is Stonecrop Sedum.  It helps keep the native grass out of this bed.

This year I’ve planted Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetti) in a pot so it can be carried inside in winter.  One year I tried it in a flower bed; that winter was particulary harsh and killed it.

The flowers have a similar look as Mexican Petunia.

After the initial first flush, the roses are just now starting to bloom again.  Abraham Darby has David Austin’s trademark inner petals.

A new rose that intrigues me is Scentimental.  It was hybridized by Tom Carruth.

He has created more roses than any other living American.

It’s also called a red and white stripped rose.  So far, I haven’t noticed that the smell is that strong, but still love the uniqueness of it.

“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind than on the externals in the world.”  George Washington

There’s Always Room for …

Remember that old slogan, “There’s always room for jello.”?  Guess it’s a good one if the slogan is still around rattling around in my memory.

Anyway, my gardening philosophy is that there’s always room for another plant.

Kindly Light Spider Lilies (Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’) blooming in their glory.

Love their shape and color.

Texas Leather Flower (Clematis texensis) was a surprise volunteer plant in a flowerbed this year.  They are native further south of us and not common even there anymore.

Small bell like flowers on the twining vine is growing on an old metal tower.  Otherwise, I probably would not have seen them.  They are surprisingly cold hardy.

This mixture of cannas, wild ornamental onions, Larkspurs, and Red Yuccas shows my preference for plants bunched together.

Unfortunately, native Bermuda grass is taking over and impossible to remove.

The grasses in the fields around our yard have gotten tall.  We were waiting until all the wildflowers dropped their seeds before shredding it down.

But there have been lots of snakes around this year.  So my husband mowed around the wildflowers and cut down the grass closest to the yard to discourage snakes from invading the yard.  Hopefully that will work.  Anyway, it will make them more noticeable if they don’t respect our space. Such a pipe dream!

Moonshine” Yarrow or Sneezewort (Achillea “Moonshine”) with its grey foilage is a reliable perennial. This yellow yarrow spreads slowly, so it’s not agressive.

This annual Superbells Pomegrante Punch (Calibrachoa) provides some bright color, which I seem to be addicted to.  I tend to not buy annuals because they are so short lived, but all the box stores entice me with their outside displays.

Reblooming Daylillies do not rebloom on a schedule, so it’s a nice surprise when they do.  I think this one is Scottish Fantasy.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies.  The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle,  you must fear or hate them.                                                         The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.                                                                                                                                Both are nonsense.  You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”    Rick Warren

Halt

Sometimes life is just bopping along; then suddenly we’re stopped in our tracks.  If it’s major, there are catastrophic results, like loss of life.  If it’s minor, it’s usually just an irritant.  Then there are different levels in-between.

Recently, I spent too much time in a certain position pulling weeds, which resulted in sciatica nerve pain that has halted my activities.  For now, I’m sidelined from yard work.

So, yes, I know there are weeds in the following pictures.

My option is to just observe all the weeds popping up following abundant rains and sigh.  Elegant Candy re-blooming day lily has an interesting color combination.

This Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis) was sold as a Texas native.  In reality, they are native to East Asia.  They have a nice rounded shape and are perennials in zones 5 to 9.

The color is rather delicate, so lean in close to truly see its beauty.  Butterflies and bees do like them, but this shrub doesn’t have the super allure of Gregg’s Blue Mist.

Love daylily time.  These common Ditch Lilies have just opened up.

They’re called common, but I think they’re real beauties.

Woodland Ferns have filled in this flowerbed.  Columbine keeps claiming some space and will be pulled out at some time.

Rose Moss gives a cheery greeting as you step up to the porch.

Shasta Daisies are bursting into bloom.

Bright small yellow puffs top off Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyoarissus).

The silvery sheen of Prairie Sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) is alluring as the wind ruffles its leaves.

Ragin Cajun False Petunia (Ruellia elegans) is a small clump that blooms profusely.  It’s from Brazil and Argentina and is hardy zones 8a to 10b, so I’m hoping it survives our winter.  The hummingbirds have been visiting it often.

Hope your late spring is full of joy and wonder.

“My life is like my internet browser.  I have 19 tabs open, 3 are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.” unknown 

Transition Time

Often the changing of the seasons here is abrupt with no chance to adjust from one to another.  This year has been very different with more rain and milder temperatures.  In fact, I have been hesitant to bring some more tropical plants outside yet.

Some colors never seem to photograph to the true color.  This Brilliant Veranda rose is actually a very strong red that stands out in the landscape.  It was labeled as a good size for a container plant.  Recently I tried to scoot it over, and the roots are firmly in the ground.

Another rose that never photographs well is this Drift Rose.  The flowers last a long time and are striking as a grouping.  My husband who hardly every mentions specific plants often comments on how pretty they are.

The seed pods on this Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) only last a short time in spring.

It’s an interesting plant in many ways.  One of those is that the trunks shoot out like a water sprinkler, so it’s long small trunks sway gracefully in the wind.

Larkspur is popping up all over the yard.  One of my favorite surprises during the springtime.

Not only have we had lots of rain, but the wind has been really strong, scattering rose petals.  Looks like an aisle at a wedding in some places.

Good old Henry Duelberg Salvia or Mealy Cup Sage makes pollinators and me happy.

Augusta Duelberg Salvia makes a nice contrast.

This evergreen Yarrow has lovely lacy foliage.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) on tall stems is just starting to bloom while Spiderwort (shorter purple blooms in front) is on its way out.

French Hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris) like the mild weather and rains.  Sylvestris means found wild.

Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is showing off with exotic blooms.

Stella de Oro Daylily is a dependable short-stemed perennial bulb.  I recently heard a speaker say that they are boring because they are ubiquitous.  I think these are beautiful.

Never expected this Yellow Lead Ball (Leucaena retusa) tree to get so big.  They are considered a small tree with total height about 12 feet.  They’re drought tolerant and very hardy in our rocky hard clay.

I like the fuzzy yellow balls and so do the bees and other pollinators.

It’s fun when nature surprises us with more pleasant weather than we expected.

“Expect to have hope rekindled.  Hope to have your prayers answered in wondrous ways.  The dry seasons in life do not last.  The spring rains will come again.”          Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

 

Southeast Texas Gardening

While attending the Texas Master Gardener Convention in Victoria, we visited the local Master Gardener’s demonstration garden.  Gardening in this region is polar opposite of gardening here in our neck of the woods.  The plants there tend to be tropical and they have arable soil while we have hard clay and rocks.  They must have weeds, but I didn’t see any.The garden is across from the airport and is located around a former officer’s club.  This part of the garden was constructed over a former olympic-sized pool, which had been filled with dirt.  The total size of the gardens is over an acre.

The contrast between shade and bright sunlight made photography difficult.

Some plants, like this Duranta (Duranta erecta), can be grown in our area, but it dies in the winter.  There, it lives all year.  This one was huge.

Great plant.

This plant was unfamiliar to me.  It’s Cestrum (Cestrum aurantiacum) which grows in zones 9 -11.  Really pretty but not a choice for me.

Henry Duelberg Sage seems to be a favorite all over the state.  It’s in the mealy cup or blue sage variety and is a perennial where we live.

Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea Fabagae) bushes are simply gorgeous.  Definitely a hot climate plant.  In spite of its beauty, the beans are toxic and can be a temptation to children.

If it would live here, I’d give it a try.

Could not find a sign identifying these flowers but couldn’t pass up this picture.

At first, I wondered what was wrong with this plant.  Then I saw the sign.  Curly Leaf Leopard Plant (Ligularia tussilaginea) likes the heat but needs a bit of shade.  Aptly named.

Crested Leopard Plant (Ligularia eristata)

Ligularia (Farfugium tussilaginea “Gigantea”) are surprisingly in the aster family and are commonly know as the ragwort flower.  They have yellow flowers that resemble asters but aren’t the toxic ragwort found in some fields.

Cute bench.

Never could find a label for these.  The flowers look like they’re mixed in with larger leafed plants.

Another unidentified flower.  The red ones were lovely.

I’m sure that this Hibiscus was a new addition in preparation for this event.  Whenever an association takes on the job of hosting a convention, that means two years of work: planning and executing everything.  Kudos to the Victoria Master Gardeners for pulling off a successful convention and for this beautiful garden.

The next post will show more of the garden.

“Today I’m going to clean the house.  Oh, look, a flower (or book, etc.)”  unknown