Garden Memories, Hopes

When the skies are dreary and the yard is barren, I look for any color, shape, light to lift my spirits.  Although we have not had the rough winter like most of the US, winter cold makes me long for spring.  Guess living most of my life in a dry, hot environment has become part of who I am.

afterfreeze1A few pots of Pansies are still alive – scraggly, but colorful.

afterfreeze2Green from Yellow Columbine sticks out between dead Woodland Fern.  In the spring, I’ll be mumbling about Columbine coming up unwanted in this bed.  Now I’m glad to see something alive.

afterfreeze3Good ole reliable Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum keeps on keeping on.

afterfreeze4Underneath these resting Daylily stalks lies the bulbs that will provide new stalks and gorgeous flowers in the spring.  The promise of new life encourages all gardeners.

afterfreeze5Dead Senna branches will need to be cut off to the ground in the spring, but now they provide seeds for birds.

winteryyar3Twirling Hummingbirds make me smile in all seasons.

winteryyard3

winteryyard2Not much rain this fall and winter, so I like the looks of some melting ice on tree branches.

winteryyardThe sunlight made them sparkle like diamonds.

winteryyard4All the Gomphera heads are white now rather than the bright red ones that will bloom in the spring.  Each of these hold about 100 seeds.  They will be so thick that thinning will be required.  I plan to move some to a new bed and to share some.

winteryyard5Pansies just amaze me.  I guess because I’m such a wuss in the cold.

winteryyard8We’ve had several Cardinals in the yard this year.  They are so wary that my attempts at photographing them has not been very successful.

winteryyard9Talk about bringing a bright color to the yard.  I love to watch them from inside a warm house.

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  unknown

The Lady Wore Red

Chris De Burgh’s “Lady in Red” lyrics include these lines:

“I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight.  I’ve never seen you shine so bright.”

A red dress is an attention getter.  Red flowers have that same effect in the garden.

ladyinredEven a common old fashioned plant like Canna Lilies are still striking.  Not only do the bright flowers shine, but the large leaves fill up a space.

They have the added bonus of being low maintenance and easy to grow.  They probably bloom better with a little more water, but mine do fine with less than ideal amounts.  The rhizomes multiply yearly which makes it easy to share the bounty.

ladyinred5Dynamite Crape Myrtles have a deep, deep red color.  For all of central Texas, Crape Myrtles are one of the best flowering small trees around.  They come in so many different colors and are a trustworthy performer.

I’ve read that Dynamites are fast growers.  That has not been my experience.  Granted, the soil here is dense clay with lots of caliche and rocks.

They did not even bloom for the first two years and only had a few flowers the third year.  Just when I was about ready to give up, they were covered with full, gorgeous clusters.

ladyinred6Crimson Pirate Daylily is new this year.  We’ll see how hardy it is in this climate.

ladyinredbThe Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has bloomed several times this year and none last year.  Sometimes plant performance is a conundrum.

ladyinred9The wind whips it around pretty hard.

ladyinredaThe pods for new blooms are clustered behind the one already open.  So far, only one flower at a time blooms.

ladyinred8On a different branch a flower pod awaits its turn.

ladyinredcTurk’s Cap flowers are small but so attractive.  The large, thin leaves look totally unsuitable for our hot summers.  But it’s in full sun and has survived for five years, continues to grow and get larger.

ladyinreddRed Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have shoots coming up all around the mother plant.  It surprised me to learn that hollyhocks are short lived with only a 2 to 3 year lifespan.  However, they readily reseed.

ladyinredp.jpgFlame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus Nees var. wrightii) looks so unimpressive from a distance with the red washing out in the sun.

ladyinredfUp close each tubular flower seems bold.  Also known as Hummingbird bush, Wright’s desert honeysuckle, Wright acanthus, Mexican flame, and Wright’s Mexican flame.  So it’s no surprise that hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects flit around it.

ladyinredgAll the new little bushes sprouting in my beds attest to the fact that it reseeds profusely.

ladyinredo.jpgBack in full force, Strawberry Field Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) has filled out this spot nicely.  Each flower contains about 60 seeds.  That accounts for all the new plants this year.

Gomphrena also makes a good dried flower.  I tried a few last year.  If cut when the color is vivid, the color holds pretty well.

ladyinredr.jpgOne Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) still has a few blooms but has mostly gone to seed.  It is indigenous to the southeastern US and is a member of the phlox family.

Standing Cypress or Texas plume, Red Texas star, Red gilia has been difficult for me to get established.  I don’t know if that is because it is biennial here or that the seeds are not sprouting.  But it is such a striking plant that I keep trying.

“One of the most breathtaking concepts in all of scripture is the revelation that God knows each of us personally and that we are in His mind both day and night.”  Dr. James Dobson

Front View

When we built our house and put in the “lawn”, I confess that we were not enlightened enough about water conservation.  So we have a large expanse of grass that I have been gradually eliminating with flowerbeds.  The grass is native Bermuda that came from the pasture soils we dumped over the rocky caliche yard areas.  As the weather gets hotter and the occasional rains have stopped, the grass will be more yellow than green.

Since I’ve never really shown the overall layout of the land, here goes with the front of the house, which faces north.

frontyard614xThe house is not really tilted – just my photo.

Although I would like to blame someone else for many of the choices in the yard, we both agreed to most everything.  I still think that our location, surrounded by pastures, does require a large open space.

frontyard614sOn the left side of the front, against the house, there are heirloom Daylilies and some hardy well adapted Yellow Columbines. frontyard614All the Daylilies were planted close to the house because those were the only flowerbeds we had when a friend gave us a whole trunk-load of newly dug bulbs.  Nothing had been done to the yard yet except stone laid for the flowerbeds and sidewalks.  So with no soil preparation, they were planted into the thick clay and have been healthier than should be expected

frontyard614aLet me interrupt myself:  when we were outside the other day, a baby Barn Swallow fell or was pushed out of a nest under the edge of the front porch covering.  It just took a dive into the grass in front of us and stayed there, probably stunned.  Eventually, it did fly away.

frontyard614rJust to the right of the porch is a bed of Purple Heart.  Then further right is Woodland Fern.

Another aside:  The wet walkway is from a 4 one-hundredth of an inch morning rain.  Lately, we’ve had several of those rains with some up to .20 inches.  Not really enough to water but enough to cause really high humidity.  And that is something we are not used to.

So with the humidity and the gnats, caused by lack of wind, it’s been a killer to work outside.  Whatever we complain about usually comes back to haunt us.  For me, that’s been too much wind.  So now we’ve had the opposite.

To those hardy souls who garden in the deep South, you have my sympathy and admiration because you endure humidity that soaks your clothes in minutes and all kinds of pesky flying menaces.

frontyard614y2 The Purple Heart has almost filled in its bed.  In fact, enough was growing out onto the walkway that I was able to break it off and share it with someone who wanted it.

In the foreground of the picture is a pot of African Bulbine.

frontyard614fThen, in the only true shady bed, is the Woodland Fern.  Columbine keeps trying to take over, so it requires diligence to keep it out.  But I don’t always keep up.

frontyard614gA potted Boston Fern in the corner has a pot of Kalanchoe in front of it.  The leaves on this particular Kalanchoe never seem to look healthy, but the blooms keep coming.

frontyard614dAlso, tucked in that corner is an Elkhorn (Euphorbia  lactea Haworth) that I’ve had for 5 years.  It’s also called Frilled Fan or Crested Euphorbia.  Although it thrives in the heat, it does better without direct sun.

It just keeps growing upwards and is tricky to move inside during the winter because it has sharp barbs on every edge.

frontyard614nAnother bed of Daylilies on the west side comes to the edge of the front fern bed.

As you can guess, I feel that I should apologize to those who urge us all to go xeriscape.  But I don’t truly like that look, especially in the extreme.  My preference is for an English Garden look, which I’m working towards using some drought tolerant plants and natives.

Happy gardening whatever your style.

“Gardening is a mirror of the heart.  Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow.  Gardening is an exercise in optimism.  Gardening is not a rational act.”  Margaret Atwood

Cowboy Culture

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City preserves and honors the life and culture of the cowboys of the American west.

cowboymuseumnThe western art displayed outside and inside the building are of excellent quality.

cowboymuseumPlus, the grounds surrounding the museum are filled with native flowers.

The flowers in the above picture were labeled Beard Tongue (Penstemon digitalis), “Prairie Dust”, an Oklahoma native.

cowboymuseum3The driveway into the museum property had this attractive center divider.

cowboymuseum4Looking back towards the street.

cowboymuseum5There was time to walk around the front and side of the building before it opened.  These massive relief murals are probably not even seen by most visitors, unless the front parking lots are full.

cowboymuseum6The shapes appeared to be layered concrete creating a bas relief.

cowboymuseum1Mexican Hats and Indian Blankets are natives commonly seen in several southwestern states.

oklaCoryopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), I think.

cowboymuseum2Rose Moss is so bright and cheery.

cowboymuseum7Many larger than life cowboy bronzes were scattered throughout the grounds.  The strong morning sun made photography difficult.

cowboymuseum8Just ignore the cars in the parking lot and focus on their faces.  A personal encounter captured for all to enjoy.

cowboymuseum9The sun totally washed out the front of this cowboy, but the back also makes a statement with the cactus and saddle being dragged.  Lost his horse, maybe.

cowboymuseumaThis huge “End of the Trail” marble statue greets visitors as they walk through the front door.

cowboymuseumiThere are many different halls at the museum that require several hours to visit them all.  Besides the cowboy theme, there is a strong sense of patriotism.

cowboymuseumjSome areas are dedicated to western art, both by well know artists like Remington and Russell, and some rooms devoted to newer artists.  Of course, photographing paintings was not allowed.

One large section features western culture as told by Hollywood.  Many movie posters advertising different shows and portraits of famous actors and actresses are displayed as well as some artifacts from the movies.

Then, there are rodeo rooms honoring winners and the art, itself.  A small western town with all the requisite buildings provides visitors a chance to peek in windows and stroll through streets.

There is so much more to this museum.  Wow.

cowboymuseumbOut in the back park-like area, more bronze horses seem to thunder through the land.

cowboymuseumcMature trees provided cool shaded areas and picturesque garden cameos.  Flowers, like these Daylilies, sparkled with color and interest.

cowboymuseumd

cowboymuseume

cowboymuseumfSmall water features brought cooling serenity.

cowboymuseumgThis statue was many time larger than life size.

cowboymuseumhI think this was Wild Bill Hickok, but I don’t remember for sure.

cowboymuseumkAlmost a neon color, these Astillble (Astillbe chimensis), made me halt and admire them.

cowboymuseumlFrom the back grounds, there is a good view of that well known statue.

cowboymuseumoSo worth a visit if you are interested in the old west and the lives of those who survived the hot, dusty, hostile environment and the dangers of wild animals and tough, ruthless men.

“In the Southwest, boots and pearls go with any attire.  Add a cowboy hat and you have an ensemble.” unknown

Rain Works Wonders

Everything looks better after a rain, except, for sopping wet dogs and cats.  But the blessed rains of this week have put new life in all the vegetation here.  Even beyond the much needed moisture, the overcast skies and lower temperatures were extra bonuses.  The lowest recorded temperature in July and the lowest high recorded in July both happened this past week.  What a fabulous week.

turkroseofsharonThe Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriaacus) loves a little extra drink.  They are all covered with flowers.  One of them is shown behind the Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) and Lil Miss Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’) in this picture.

roseofsharon2The Rose of Sharon, like all the plants that have a flower that resembles Hibiscus, can transport me to Hawaii or other tropical places I’ve visited.

hibuscus15Sweet rain drops.

hibuscus14I can’t recommend these hardy plants enough.  Even when it’s hot, hot, hot and they get little water, they survive.  They don’t bloom much without some watering, but they stay alive.

daylilyEven a Daylily (Hermerocallis fulva) bloomed with the extra dose of water.  All the buds indicate more to come.  It’s past their normal blooming time but love that pop of color.

purplesage2The desert Purple Sage, Cenizo (Scrophulariaceae Leucophyllum frutescens) blooms burst out after a rain.  Every time I see one of these bushes, childhood memories of the West come to mind.  Although I haven’t read Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, the whole western book and movie genre is very familiar.

I’m also reminded of the Sons of the Pioneers’ song “Cool Water”.  Those songs were a favorite of my Dad, and every Saturday morning the radio was tuned to a country music station.  Although, country-western is not my own personal preferred music style, it brings back good thoughts about my youth.

bluemistBlue Mist is blooming enough to draw Viceroy butterflies.  As more  flowers open up, there will be tons more butterflies.  I’m not sure if this is a Conoclinium coelestinum or a Conoclinium  greggii (dissectum) because the difference between the two is slight to untrained eyes.

This week has brought blessings of full water tanks or ponds, drainage into lakes, green fields and grasses, and a wonderful respite to a hot summertime.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Heat, Grasshoppers, Fireants

Three digit temperatures started yesterday.  The heat and relentless sun will soon start to take its toll on vegetation.  Also, a grasshopper invasion is chewing up everything they land on.  We’re used to the gray ones with a little green on them.  This year there have also been bright yellow and chartreuse ones.

daylily2The return of old favorites is reassuring.  Very few day lilies survived the last hail storm.

daylilyThese are the old fashioned pass along Daylilies (Hermerocallis fulva).

crinim2When the Crinim lilies started to bloom, I had to watch them closely.  They had to be cut and brought inside because the grasshoppers were feasting on them.

crinim3The bulbs of these C. Bradley Crinims are huge and can’t be easily dug up.  So it’s best to plant them where you want them.

crinimThe curl in their stamens don’t seem to characteristic to all crinim lilies.  These have a nice aroma.

fireant2Look at these pictures to see if you can determine what this mystery clump is.  First, a shot looking straight down from the top.

fireantThen a side view.  It’s 4 1/2″ tall in a clump of grass.

fireant3Another side view from a different angle.  What do you think?

We think it is a fire ant bed that started building upwards after it was sprinkled with a fire ant insecticide.  The powder is white.  But I didn’t disturb it to find out.

Texas has many native ants.  They aren’t as big a problem as the imported fire ants (S invicta).  Although most Texans consider them to be a recent problem, they probably were brought into the country in the early 1920’s.  Apparently, they arrived via the soil in some potted plants or in the sand ballast of the ships.

In recent years, they have become extremely wide spread in the southern part of the US and almost impossible to get rid of.  The insecticides seem to cause them just to move to another area in the yard. Their bite leaves a red area with some pus and a sting for several days.

crinim4A picture to remind us that there are many pleasant things outdoors.

“When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.”  Chinese Proverb

Preview of Spring

There are small signs of spring in spite of the fact that weather forecasts indicate more freezes coming up.  Several trees have already budded out and those buds have turned black from a freeze.

daffodilA few daffodils have already bloomed and grown ragged from the wind.  But there still more buds.

swampsunflowersSometimes it hard to determine from the first shoot of a plant what it is.  So it helps if you can remember where something is planted rather pulling up little greenery as weeds.  Spoken from experience.  These are Swamp Sunflowers, which go through some pretty stages.  After this, it will become thin, frilly leaves that drop over like a circular waterfall.

violetsJust plain old common violets that have a nice low growth with lovely whitish, purple flowers that rise above the leaves.

dayliliesOne of my favorites – orange daylilies.  Not only are they pretty but so dependable and easy.  Emphasis on the easy.

dandelionOf course, weeds are here with more on the horizon.  The dandelion has a soft inviting shape.

dandelion2Beauty comes in all forms.

henpitThe prolific henbit will always be with us.

cherrylaurelCherry Laurel in full bloom promises new leaves.

cherrylaurel2The entire tree hummed like a bee hive.

Our first evidence of spring is weeds.  That brings a somber reminder that I need to be outside with a hoe or a spray.

“What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.”  Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871

Daylilies

One of the reasons that pass-a-long plants are so great is that they’re free.  Another reason is that in my mind, they are attached to the person who so generously shared with me.  The plants are reminders of pleasant thoughts of that person.

In a previous post, I stated that I didn’t plant long sweeps of one plant.  I need to qualify that here.  We moved here in Jan.  By autumn of the following year, we had seeded the grass and planted a few things at the edge of the grass on one side.  You can see them in the back of this picture and had the stone for the flowerbed edge laid.  In Oct. a friend asked if I wanted some day lilies.  Of course, I said “Sure.”

What I didn’t know was how generous she was.  There were three pails crammed full of  bulbs, and they needed to go into the ground right away.  There was no time for soil preparation, even if I had thought to do that.  These are planted directly into heavy clay.  It’s amazing how well they have done.

In fact, when I wanted to share some, I found it almost impossible to dig up the bulbs.  After several hours of work with a shovel, I had about 30 to give away.

In hindsight, and with a little more knowledge, we should have done the bed preparation before we had the rock borders constructed.

There were enough bulbs for two long beds – one on the northeast and one on the west side of the house.  They have done equally well.  This was due purely to the hardiness of the plant.

These will always remind me of a special, thoughtful person who is a dear friend.

“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”