Valentine Brunch

There was a Ladies’ Valentine Brunch at church on Saturday the 13th of February.  I was on the planning committee and was the decorator for the event.

brunch2There are many challenges to change our fellowship hall into a space that looks somewhat classy.  First, my sweet husband agreed to bring in the padded chairs from the chapel.  That made a huge difference rather than using the battered, mismatched folding metal chairs.

We also carried out some wall decorations, metal chairs, and other items that were eye sores.

My dear husband helped in so many ways.  It could not have been accomplished without him.

brunchThere is a large window opening into the kitchen, so I used sheers and lights to block out that view and added three arrangements for a little distraction and interest.

Later I noticed the gaps in the curtains and pulled those together.

brunch7Sheers on the windows gave the whole room a softer look.

brunch3There is no budget for such events, so I purchased items that can be used again for another function.  I had sprayed some vases for a previous luncheon, so those were used to hold artificial red and white roses.  Also, I sprayed dried items and and made beaded wires.

The dried items came from my yard, like Red Yucca pods, plus some Yucca pods from the field.  The clusters of seeds came from a small Vitex tree and a Burl Curls bush.  The bushy ends on a stem are dried flowers from Sedum Brilliant.  There are also some stems with dried flower pods from Rose of Sharon bushes.

brunch5Around the vases are paper heart chains. candles, and Bible verse cards.

brunch4

brunchcThere were five beaded wires in each vase.  On each wire were red, white and silver beads.  No two were alike.  They didn’t show up well in the pictures, so I took a picture of one alone.  I wandered all over the house trying to find a good spot for the photograph but couldn’t find one.  Finally settled on this photo.

brunchaThe serving table is 16 feet long.  Since it is in front of the kitchen window, I moved the larger vase to the corner at the end of the serving line.

The planning committee borrowed dishes from another church and brought flatware from home to make it more special than using paper plates and plastic utensils.  Volunteers washed dishes afterwards.

brunch1

brunch9This vase was on the drink table.  We found a great punch recipe on the internet.  It’s called Grandma’s punch and was really delicious and was red.

brunchbWe had a duet, a solo, and a short devotional.  Another lady was in charge of the games, which were a big success.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.  So the hours of preparation were worth it.

“Three things can’t be hidden: coughing, poverty, and love.”          Yiddish Proverb

Cooler Temps

Twenty degrees makes a world of difference.  From 95 degrees to 75 degrees recently has perked up everything.  It’s nice to have the weather match the calendar.

Also, we were blessed with six inches of rain.

coolautumn6Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a winner.  It was named a Texas Superstar by Texas A & M in 2011.  And that it is.

coolautumn7Pictures of the garden really points out flaws.  In this photo I noticed the Hackberry tree growing in the Salvia Greggi.  I have since cut it down.  Behind the salvia is hardy Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  and several different rose bushes.

coolautumn8In front is Double Delight rose, then Tropicana rose with tall Knock-Outs in the background.

coolautumn5Purple Aster didn’t perform very well this year because it needs to be divided.  I’ve read that should be done in early spring.

coolautumn3The dead pods on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)  are beginning to bug me.  I was leaving them as food for birds this winter.  But I decided to cut the heads off and leave them in the flowerbed.  Then the stems can be eliminated.  That way the birds can forage on the ground, and the dead plants are not an eyesore.

The Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena globosa) bloomed in the spring, hot summer, and now into autumn.  Even though they are small, their bright color gives a great bang for the buck.  They also reseed generously.

coolautumnaMexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) are still going strong.

coolautumncThey don’t bloom with a great mass, but the delicate tubular flowers on the ends of tall stalks are pretty.

coolautumndCannas have revived with some red flowers.

coolautumneBlue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) fuzzy puffs continue to draw butterflies.

coolautumnfA few flowers remain on Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), but leaves have dropped off.

coolautumnkDuranta (Duranta erecta) is a hot weather plant but has seemed to like the cooler weather.  Love it.

coolautumnmWhat is prettier than these clusters of tiny purple flowers?

Several potted plants still look good:

coolautumnhRussian Sage, Turk’s Cap, and Kolanche in pots provide some color.

coolautumniFinally, the Bougainvilla has a few blooms.  Don’t know what the problem is, but thes are the first flowers this year.  Probably didn’t fertilize it.

coolautumnjAfrican Bulbine’s (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) flowers wave in the wind.  All of these potted plants will have to go into the shed for the winter.

hibiscusHibiscus is looking good.  The wet weather is agreeing with it.

hibiscus1Love the color of the flowers.

hibiscus2This tropical Hibiscus has been in this pot for eight years.  The beautiful flowers make it worth hauling into the shed each winter.

coolautumnoIce Plant will die back during the winter.  I used to always have a start inside, but it has come back from the last two winters, so that doesn’t seem necessary.

ContainerPlants1Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) or False Shamrock has been in this pot for years.

coolautumn1Last week I was working at the Brady Master Gardener’s Butterfly Garden.  I thought that Monarchs had already passed through this area, but I was obviously wrong.

coolautumn2I love Maxamillan Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) with lots of flowers on each stalk.  They grow in the bar ditches around here.

The cooler weather is great, but it also means winter will be here soon and flowers will be gone.  But winter is what makes spring so special.

“Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”  unknown

Purple Blooms

Continuing with the color theme, today the focus is on purple, the color of royalty.

bloomingnow3This Jackman Clematis (Clematis jackmanii) was chosen because it is reported to be a good clematis choice for our area.  Other clematis have prettier and more complex flowers.

bloomingnow1After its initial flourish of flowers, it hasn’t bloomed again.  Clematis is supposed to be an easy vine with lots of blooms.  So I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.  Maybe it needs fertilizer.

bloomingnow2I do like the color and size of the blossoms.

bloomingnow7It’s crazy that some Larkspur are still blooming.

bloomingnowdMexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) really are purple.  I don’t know why these look pink in the picture – probably the strong sun.  Can’t get any easier than this plant.  The biggest problem is that they spread with underground runners.

bloomingnowfAnother winner is Henry Duelberg Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’).  The flowers are all gone now.  But I just trimmed them back for a second blooming this summer.

bloomingnowvI love the look and smell of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).  The color is too subtle for some people’s taste.  But the soft pastel blends in well with stronger colors.

bloomingnowwGregg’s Blue Mistflower (Eupatorium greggii) is also a light purple, almost a lavender.  It’s pale color makes it look bland except for all the butterfly activity.  That gets one’s attention.

purpleDeep purple African Violets is the prettiest violet, in my opinion.

white3One stalk of French Hollyhock (Mallva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’) survived from the rust fungus.  It was actually not in the flowerbed, but just outside the yard in the weeds.  I transplanted it, so we’ll see what happens next year.

Flowerbeds5This is the flowerbed that I was going to be cautious and not over plant.  Who knew the bushes would get so big and the flowers reseed and multiply so well?  Not me, obviously.

purple3The Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum) are especially tall this year.  All the rain in May made everything abundant and hardy.

flowers8Such a pretty flower.

purple5The Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta Hook) has been like a Jack in the Beanstalk plant that just keeps getting taller.

purple6Unusual flowers and foliage make it an interesting plant in the yard.  It’s another purchase from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  One of those impulse buys without much knowledge of its characteristics.

Purple robes may have belonged exclusively to the kings, but fortunately, we can enjoy it where ever we wish, including our gardens.

“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.” Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Lovely Autumn Days

There have been studies about the affect of weather on people’s moods.  High crimes rates have been linked to long periods of hot weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a syndrome noted for depression during winter months when there is less sunlight.  So why am I writing about weather and moods?  Because this autumn is so fantastic that everyone is talking about it.  “What a beautiful day.” is a common phrase now.  Just so thankful for this time of the year.

autumnblooms1These mild sunny days have brought flowers to my Rock Roses (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele)  that have hardly ever bloomed.   They are also know as Rose pavonia or Rose Mallow.

autumnblooms2They have a woody stem and can grow in shallow soil on limestone.

autumnblooms3Also still blooming a little is Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta Hook).  Another popular name is Fiddleneck.  This year mine has grown to about four feet tall.

autumnbloomscThe buds are slow to open, so it’s hard to find a cluster of all flowers open at once.

autumnbloomsjThe Zinnas just keep on giving.  About six or seven years ago I planted one package of seeds.  Over the years, only pink and a few orange ones have survived by reseeding.

autumnbloomslThe bees continue to enjoy them, probably even more than I do.

autumnbloomsiAfter last year’s winter, I thought this Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata) might not make it.  The Dirt Doctor calls this the most beneficial insect-attracting plant he has ever grown.  Not sure about that, but I do agree that the fragrance is wonderful.

autumnblooms9This year at the Garden Club plant sale, I bought an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).  I’ve always shied away from them because everyone warns how aggressive they are.  But those are the kind that do well for me, so I grabbed a couple.  And I love their look.

The Obedient name comes from the fact that the stems can be bent in any direction and remain there.  So that’s nice in floral arrangements.  Unfortunately, in the garden they don’t stay where they are put.

I hope this is a wonderful season for you.  Thank you for taking time to read my blog.

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” Zig Ziglar

Robust Flower Bed

Still have the same dilemma that I always have when planting.  Beds usually become too crowded because the plants get bigger than I imagined they would.  Or there is too much space around the plants.

frontbedhjpgThis bed is visible from the front porch and front windows.

frontbeddI like the colors and the plants individually but overall design needs work.

frontbedbThe yellow border is made up of Stonecrop Sedum.  From a small start taken from my mother’s yard, I have scattered it around in several beds.  This year I put some around the edge of one end of this bed to create a border.

The positive characteristics of this sedum is that it roots and spreads quickly, is drought tolerant, and covers nicely.

frontbed8As soon as summer heats up, the yellow will disappear and leave tall dead stems that will need to be cut off, unless they don’t bother you.  The green will become a dull greyish green.  So it’s not a perfect plant.

frontbedcThis is the first Butterfly Weed (Asclepias) I’ve had that is covered in blooms with a bright orange color.  I have two others in a different bed that look pretty bland.

This plant seems misnamed because it doesn’t attract butterflies like other plants that grow nearby.

frontyard614uIn front of the Butterfly Weed Bush is a native Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) that has filled out this year.  A friend assured me that I would like it when she gave it to me.  And she’s right even though the blooms are not large.

frontbed1These Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum) have spread and bloomed like crazy this year.  These were also a pass-along from a friend.

frontbedNot sure which specific Gomphera these are, but they are a neon magenta color.  I planted them because I didn’t think last year’s Gomphera were coming back.

frontbedmThe Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) have gotten leggy this year, so they are susceptible to being trampled by whatever creatures stomp through them at night.

Some interesting facts about Texas Bluebells:
The Japanese have been breeding them for over 70 years and know them as Lisianthus.  They have developed pink, white and deep purple varieties with both single and double petals.

Texas Bluebells are little known now because they are so pretty.  People have picked them so much that the native flowers haven’t been able to reseed in the wild.

frontbed7Bluebell are delicate looking flowers but are hardy in nature, if left alone.

frontbedkThis monster just keeps growing.  If it didn’t die in the winter, it might just take over the yard.  I don’t remember what it is, but it was bought at a Lady Bird Johnson Center sale, so it’s a native.

frontbedlSandwiched between that plant on the left and the Cone Flowers on the right is another mystery plant.  I don’t think I planted it, but it grew here last year, too.  I keep waiting for it to bloom hoping to identify it.  The leaves look like those of a mum.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, it’s out of here.

frontbedjThe Cone Flowers(Echinacea) did a great job of reseeding because many more are coming up.  The Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) with the red flowers did return but apparently did not seed.  I’m still hoping that some of those seeds will set for next year.

frontbedaLove the look and color of these Coneflowers.

frontbediThe Blue Curls bush (Phacelia congesta) also is growing like a weed.

frontbed9The Blue Curls flowers on stalks are a soft muted purple.

frontbednIn fact, the bush has gotten so big that the wind whirligig won’t move.

frontbed4The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) also is jammed up against a bush.  Small clumps came up all around the original plants.  I have moved several to get a fuller look at this end of the bed, but some four legged varmits keep digging them up.

Makes me wonder if I’ll ever get it right.  I like a nice full look, but not this crowded.

frontbedfLast year three small Strawberry Fields Gompheras (Gompherena haageana) were planted here.  I asked the man at the nursery if they would reseed.  He said “Maybe.”

This year I had given up hope but the other day noticed the mass of tiny plants.

frontbedfgjpgThey are already blooming and getting their height.  So I have plenty of Gompheras to share.

Guess I’ll keep muddling along trying to get the look I want in the flower beds.

“The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.'”  Unknown

Wintertime Yard

When it’s cold but dry outside, I sometimes wander around in the yard looking for some beauty in forms or at least, something unusual.

winteryardThese Coneflowers (Echinacea) are a good place to start.  I like their spiky ball shape and the way the light creates different color tones.  The name Echinacea comes from the Greek word meaning sea urchin.  That spiny center certainly looks like one.

This past year Coneflowers became one of my favorite flowers because the petals and central disk have bright colors and demand attention.

winteryard2The branches and seed pods on this Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta) strikes me as interesting.  In a state known for its Bluebonnets, this native loses out on the spotlight.  But it has beautiful light blue bell shaped blossoms that grow on curling stems.

winteryard3The dried flower heads of Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana) in their winter gold make me anxious for their bright red color to return.  Lots of seeds should have fallen to produce a good crop this coming spring.  Another fave.

winteryard4A few orange-rust colored leaves cling to this Flame Acanthus (Acanthaceaae Anisacanthus wrightii) creating a stained glass window look.  Maybe my imagination is too strong.

winteryard6Bare branches emphasis a characteristic of the Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).  The bark loses its outer layers on the trunk and larger branches.

winteryard5As with other white oaks, the Chinkapin is a hardwood used in building construction.

winteryard7The curly leaves of Woodland Ferns take on an artistic look in the winter.  They are crisp and look like they would crumble easily.  But past experience reminds me that they are difficult to pull out of the bed to prepare for new shoots in the spring.  So I use loppers to chop them off at the ground.

With little shade in my yard, they occupy the only flowerbed that receives almost no direct light.

winterskyHow fortunate we are to live where the skies are clear and vast.  When I think of all the millions of people who only see smog when they look up, it makes me sad for them.

wintersky2Love the buttermilk sky.

Plants, trees, and skies remind of God’s daily grace.

“Counting other people’s sins does not make one a saint.”  Unknown

A Dramatic Entrance

What?  An ice storm before Thanksgiving.  Temperatures in the 70’s would be more usual.  So winter has made a grand entrance.

icestorm2The orange-gold leaves of a Chinese Pistachio covered with an icy lace.

icestormTwo Crape Myrtles become stark white.

icestorm3Notice the ice on the ground under this leaning Ratama.  It was sweeping the grass in a stooped manner before I took a small hammer and knocked off as much ice as possible.  I really, really, want this little tree to survive.

icestorm4But this Desert Willow did collapse.  It already had a weakened root system.  We left the stakes and ropes around it too long.  Plus, it got too much water in the flowerbed.  I’ll miss the beautiful orchid-like flowers.  So we’ll take this lesson to heart.

icestorm5Branches of a different Chinese Pistachio hang low.

icestorm6The ice is thick on this Blue Curls bush.

icestorm7Ice emphasizes the structure of a plant and makes it beautiful in another dimension.

icestorm8The top of the pergola takes on an artistic look.

icestorm9Yellow leaves and branches of this Hackberry are crusted with ice.

icestormaAny blade, large or small, presents a perfect surface for ice to coat.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and your family.  May you be blessed and be a blessing as you gives thanks for every good gift from above.

“How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age.  Thanksgiving opens the door.  It changes a child’s personality.  A child is resentful, negative – or thankful.  Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people.”  Sir John Templeton

New Flowerbed

Yep.  Another lasagne garden flowerbed was created this spring.  But this one has a twist that helped another problem.

frontbed10For years I’ve bemoaned the fact that the front walkway is too narrow.  We’ve learned that the wide open vistas require that everything be bigger to fit the scale.

Besides needing a flowerbed to break up the yard space and another space for plants, we opted for a plan that would also visually widen the flagstone walk.

frontbed6By using rocks in the same color palette of the flagstones, the eye is tricked into perceiving this as one space.  After building the lasagne flowerbed in the early spring, we hired a young man to install the metal divider to keep the soil out of the rocks.

So far, so good on that. frontbed5This view is from one end of the bed.  As you can tell, the plants were given space to grow.  On the left is a Dwarf Crape Myrtle.  In the middle and in the foreground is a Blue Curls bush, and a clump of Texas Bluebells is on the right.

frontbed4This picture shows the bed in June after the rock border was finished.  I’m very pleased with the look. frontbed8Then, boom.  In the center of the bed a monster plant has taken over stretching out to about 7 feet.  All these plants came from either the Garden Club plant sale or the annual spring sale at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  I thought I was choosing carefully and researched the plants I wanted.

The day after the Wildflower Center sale, I was knocked down with a severe case of allergies that turned into a bronchial infection.  All this to say that the planting of all those purchased plants did not happen until weeks later.  So even though, I was still sick, it came to a point where they had to be put into the ground.   The placement was rather helter-skelter..

frontbed11This unknown plant was not a conscious buy.  Either it was mislabeled or I grabbed one from a different section than I intended.  Does anyone know what on earth this is?

Several low branches that covered other plants have been cut off.  The reddish trunk is about 3 inches in diameter.

frontbed12The long fronds or whatever they are look soft but are actually scratchy and have some sharp points on them.

The plan is to try to transplant this alien when it gets cooler.  There are some places away from other plants where it would look good.  If that proves impossible, it will be tossed.

frontbed9Love the twirling hummingbirds.

“Old age is the most unexpected thing of all the things that can happen to a man.”  James Thurber

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