Everyday Gifts

Without sounding too pollyanna, I want to focus on the gifts we receive everyday that we often take for granted.  Mostly, we think of blessings like good health, a job we love, and a loving family as worthy of praise.  Stories of unexpected large sums of money given to people in need or stories of people who risk their lives to save others deservedly make the news.

But this post is about more subtle thoughtfulness such as when another car allows you to pull out in front of them or when a stranger smiles even when they’re busy or tired.  These gifts can easily be passed along to someone else.

Or we can just enjoy a rainy day if we live in an arid area or a sunny day if your home is in a frequent rain area.

In San Angelo a few weeks ago, I noticed pots and planters filled with plants in front of an antique mall.  There were lots of potato vines.  This one also has a Passion flower and maybe a small Turk’s Cap.

With extreme darkness and bright light beside each other, the setting is not ideal for photos.

What I appreciated was all the work involved in providing an attractive entry way and all along the side of the building.  I know it requires lots of time to keep pots watered in the extreme heat of West Texas.  Creating a pretty space for others to enjoy is a definitely a gift.

Also, I appreciated the artful placement of accessories among the plants.  Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) come in shades of chartreuse or purple.  Either color in a large grouping makes a big impact.

A Mother-of-Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) plant sits on the left of the bench.  It is so named because along the edge of each leaf is a row of plantlets that will drop and take root.  It is also known as Devil’s backbone, Alligator Plant or Mexican Hat Plant.  A succulent native to Madagascar, be wary of planting it where you don’t want it to spread.

To the right of that is African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens Orange), a heat loving plant.

A Knock Out Rose, more Potato Vine and maybe some Desert Rose.

This Austin stone planter filled with aloes has a nice crisp look.

Old tub filled with Potato Vine and White Guara or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri).

There must have been a sale on Potato Vine and Knock Out Roses.

Old wagons always make great containers for plants.

San Angelo is proud of the paintings on buildings that depict different parts of their heritage.

Not sure what this trash can is made of, but it’s definitely not a real anvil.

Items in front of an antique or ‘just used’ shop.

The store name is “Tossed and Found”.

Everytime I ooh and ahh over scenes like this, my husband says that I just like old, rusty junk.  That’s true.  Especially if a plant is plopped in or sitting on top of it.

A pot in front of a telephone pole creates a place for this Purple Passion Vine (Passiflora incarnata) to climb.  Two other common names seem really strange to me:  Maypop and Apricot Vine.

Gratitude for the small joys of life makes us happier and kinder.  My opinion.

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

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Bits & Pieces

Life is never static, although it may seem that way during periods of our lives.  The daily ebb and flow of a routine lulls us into thinking that we’re in control of events.  But daily reports of international news remind us that sudden changes can happen to anyone.

Moving my mother into assisted living this past weekend has brought thoughts of the march of time and how important it is to enjoy each moment of life.

autumnThe beauty of nature is a gift from God that prompts me into appreciating my life as well as loved ones and strangers.

The Jackman Clematis vine (Clematis x jackmanii) has rallied with new flowers after the summer heat has mostly passed.

autumn1A new tropical hibiscus was an impulse buy that I don’t regret.  Pink Lemonade Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Pink Lemonade’ ) with ruffled edges on the petals is a beauty.

Of course, it means another pot has to go into the shed this winter.

autumn5As the petals unfurls, there is a subtle change to the appearance of each flower.

autumn2Even though true autumn has not arrived, cooler nights and mornings have revived some plants while others are beginning to change into the rust colors of fall.  Passion Flower Vine (Passiflora alatocaerulea) is perennial here that is a welcome sight in the spring to me and to the caterpillars of such butterflies as the Zebra and the Gulf Fritillary.  It is the only host plant for them, so they can chomp off every leaf of a vine.  It provides both the larvae and the butterflies protection from predators because they receive a toxic compound from the plant.

autumn3Still love the older tropical Hibiscus that I’ve had for years.  The color of the blossoms are lovely.

autumn4On the same day, the plant had the above orangey flower as well as this one that is more yellow.

autumn6The stillness of this dragon fly conveyed a calm and peaceful feeling.  The copper color is appropriate as the season slowly shifts from summer to fall.

autumn7I spotted this rustic cart on a bare patch of soil in someone’s yard.  I appreciated the artistic look and their attempt to improve the looks of their space.

I urge everyone to take a deep breath and just enjoy what you see around you.  The old saying, “Stop and smell the roses.” is still valid.

“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

The Heat Goes On

Sonny and Cher’s “The beat goes on, the beat goes on, Drums keep pounding A rhythm to the brain” resonates as the sun beats down without relief and the heat goes on.

heatgoesonThankfully, some plants thrive in the heat.  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is one of those exceptional plants for sun, heat, drought, and poor soil that are reliable, once established.

heatgoeson7Three plants were planted nine years ago in this bed and have been stars every year.

heatgoeson8This angle is from the other end of the bed.  A trellis with Passion vine is on the right and a Texas Star Hibiscus is at the other end.

heatgoeson4Bumble bees cover this whole bed from spring until late fall.

heatgoeson5The Passion Vine (Passiflora Incarnata) was planted seven years ago and was full and beautiful for years.  The flowers are unique and are show stoppers.

heatgoeson6The black and orange caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly feeds on Passion Flower leaves.  Sometimes they eat so many that the plant dies back.  Last year the vine did not return, so I thought it was gone.  Strangely, I rarely see any of that particular butterfly in the yard.

This year the vine came back and has flowered again.  So I guess the root system was well established.

heatgoeson3The large Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bushes still have some blossoms.

heatgoeson2I watched bees duck into the flowers and crawl all around the stigma.  Then their bodies were covered with white pollen.

heatgoeson9Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata) has a strong sweet vanilla scent.  Sight alone doesn’t let you truly experience this vine.  The smell and the buzzing sounds envelope you as you draw close to it.  Some people don’t like the smell, but I love it.

heatgoesonaBees that aren’t  bumble bee provide the audio part.  They are smaller than bumble bees and are so fast that I couldn’t get a picture.  Plus, they stay mostly in the depths of the thick vine.

heatgoesonbThe name Autumn Clematis is a misnomer because they start blooming in the hottest part of the summer during the middle or last of August.  By any cooler temperatures that we have in October, the flowers are all gone.

But it is pretty much evergreen through the winter.  That actually makes it harder to cut it back.  I have tried not cutting it back.  It just becomes so thick that the inner branches die.

Flowers that bloom in our hot, dry climate are a blessing that I truly appreciate.

“Don’t worry if plan A fails, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.”   Anonymous

Butterfly Garden in Costa Rica

This post continues with the activities at Selvatura Park in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.  Thanks to all of you who have been faithful to patiently read about this trip.

After walking the hanging bridges path, we visited a butterfly garden.  Once again, thanks to Diane Atchison for her pictures.  Hers are the ones without my copyright.

IMG_3883The butterfly garden is in a structure with strong light.  These yellow flowers look like the Candelabra Bush (Cassia Alata).

butterflyOwl Butterflies (Caligo memnon) have the camouflage of large eyes when the wings are closed, but has a soft coloring when open.

IMG_3913IMG_3888Rotting fruit attracts the owl butterflies, so they can be seen near banana plantations.

butterfly4I think this is an open owl butterfly.  Labeling of pictures on the internet show this one to be an owl, but other pictures show owls with the same wings both open and closed.  Confusing.

butterfly2butterfly3Common Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)  In nature, they are found in forests and coffee and banana plantations. They eat flower nectar as well as sugar from rotted fruits.

butterfly6Loved these orange ones.

butterfly7

butterfly9Just emerged from its chrysalis.

butterfly8Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais) live in both dry and humid areas of Costa Rica.  They frequent open fields and gardens where flowers can be found.

butterflyaPretty sure this is a Passion Vine (Passiflora) flower.

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IMG_3906So fun to see all the colorful butterflies.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all publicity.”  George Carlin

Regal Purple

There are no words in the English dictionary that rhyme with purple or orange.  I remember a group of songs written for elementary school teachers to use in language arts.  One of the songs was titled “Purple is Urple”   The songs were zany and fun and used to inspire creative writing.

Who knows why the phrase “Purple is Urple” is stuck in my head.

bluecurls2This native Texas plant is called Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta), but the flowers are actually purple.  So I’m including it in this post.

The plant is also called Caterpillars or Fiddleneck.  Other names include Spiderflower and will Heliotrope.

bluecurlsOne of the first things noticeable about this blossom is the protruding stamens.  In nature, Blue Curls grow in colonies.

Phacelia is from the Greek word phakelos which means bundle.  This refers to the coiled flower cluster.

I bought this one at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center plant sale in the spring.  I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere else.  Or maybe I didn’t know to look for it.

mexican petunia3The mass of Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana) in my garden just keeps spreading out.

mexican petunia4The flowers have a crinkly look like crepe paper.  This is a Texas Superstar Plant.  It feels right at home in full sun, even Texas sun.  They are drought tolerant, once established, and seem to be insect and disease free.

mexican petunia2I have a few of the Katie Dwarf Ruellia, but they don’t bloom nearly as well as this taller variety.  But they are not as aggressive, either.

passionflower2The Passion Vine (Passiflora incarnata) flower has such a tropical and mysterious look to it.  And because they are tropical, they can withstand the heat here.  Regular watering is required for it to bloom.

It is a strong rooter.  Sometimes I break off strips that reach out and grow into other plants.  I usually just toss them into the field that is nearby.  They will crop up and grow there without much water.

Purple has long been a color signifying royalty.  When Jesus wore the crown of thorns, they also mocked him with a purple robe.  In the Byzantine time, a new ruler was said “to be born to the purple.”

“There is no evil that does not promise inducements.
Avarice promises money;
luxury, a varied assortment of pleasures;
ambition, a purple robe and applause.
Vices tempt you by the rewards they offer.”
Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid 1st century AD