Container Uses

Flowerpots can be the solution to several problems for gardeners.

containersIf there isn’t enough shade in the yard, pots can be tucked under a tree, like this large Live Oak just on the edge of our backyard.

Plants like this Moon Flower or Datura (Datura Wrightii Regel) could not take the full force of the sun that blasts most of my yard.  It’s also known as Jimsonweed, Angel Trumpet, and Sacred Thorn Apple.  The species name honors Charles Wright who collected plants in Texas, Cuba, and his native Connecticut in the mid to late 1800s.

This semi-shady spot also addresses other issues.  Since I’m not sure Moon Flower can handle a freeze, being portable means it can go into a shed for the winter.

containers1Makes a peaceful setting, too.

containers4aAnother plant that needs shade or filtered shade is this Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius).  This came from a friend who gave me one umbrella top with a short stem.  The instructions were to place the top upside down in a jar of water.  When it rooted, it could be planted it in soil.  Weird way to root a plant, but it worked.

containers3Under this tree has also become sort of a plant refuge or hospital station.  Whenever a plant needs to recover, it goes here.  The Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica)  came from a sale at a regional garden club meeting.  I didn’t know the seller and couldn’t ask questions.  As it turns out, not all salvia can survive our sun.  When it began looking sickly, I moved here it, where it has done very well.

containers4bIt has also proved to be a good place for Poinsettias to hang out during the summer.  The heat didn’t seem to be a problem, but direct sunlight is.

containers4cPots on a semi shady porch also work well for plants like Ice Plant.

containers7And Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii).

containers4Another helpful use for containers is when you buy a plant but don’t have a place to put it in the ground.  The White Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) will probably stay in a pot and be carried inside during the winter.  The dark foliage Crape Myrtle will eventually go in the ground.

Notice that there are all kinds of pots.  Some people like all their pots to be alike or at least the same color.  I just enjoy variety in plants and pots.

containers5This Salvia Greggii will be planted in a flowerbed whenever we create a new one.  Can you hear my husband groaning?

containers8Sometimes, pots are testing grounds to see how a plant will do.  It can easily be moved to find the perfect conditions it needs.  So far, this Bamboo Muhley (Muhlenbergia dumosa) seems happy on a porch where it gets morning sun and afternoon semi-shade.

containers6aPlants that absolutely must go into the green house in the winter are in pots, like this Orange African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens).  This one and another are 10 years old.

Behind it is Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) and an Echeveria hybrid (Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’) that are destined for the green house again this winter.

containers7aSometimes a spot of color can brighten a corner, like this tropical Ixora in the Rubiaceae family.  Great use of a potted plant.

containers7abSince we carry so many pots inside for the winter, we no longer use heavy ones.  Although I do love the look of expensive large ceramic pots, that just isn’t feasible.The light weight plastic ones have come a long way in performance and looks.

“You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.”  Harry S. Truman

Austin’s Zilker

In all the many times we’ve visited Austin, we had never been to Zilker Botanical Gardens.  So in June, the morning after we attended a Gilbert and Sullivan production, we walked through the gardens.

Zilker3Near the entrance from the parking lot is an above ground pond for water plants.

ZilkerI love water lilies but don’t want to bother with the installation, maintenance, and problems with animals that a water feature might involve.

Zilker4Looks like a dill plant, but in water?

Zilker1Very soothing to the soul.

Zilker2

Zilker5Another favorite – Hydrangeas –  cannot be grown here.  Rocky clay soil and extreme dry heat just don’t cut it.

Zilker6Queen of the Nile (Agapanthus) don’t make it through our winters.  Really lovely, though.

Zilker7This might be another variety of Queen of the Nile.

Zilker8Plumbagos (Plumbago auriculate) are from South Africa and do very well here in the summer but must go into a green house for the winter.

Zilker9Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis), also know as Confederate Rose or Mallow Rose, is a super perennial in our area and evergreen further south.

ZilkeraAlthough Austin is only 125 miles south of us, the weather is much more tropical.  So the plants that grow there don’t have to contend with cold weather, most of the time.

Zilkerb A large section of the park has tropical plants and natives to the area growing in a naturalistic style.

ZilkercSome areas seem like they are in the country rather than the city.

Zilkerd

ZilkereTexas Pink Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Texas Pink’)

ZilkerfMexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

ZilkergI like the look of tropical foliage plants but since they are annuals here, I don’t buy them.

ZilkerhPride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) thrives in Austin but doesn’t survive winter here.  So we grow Mexican Bird of Paradise, which has a similar look but not the bright color of the flowers.

Zilkeri

ZilkerjLove the bright red of what I think is a Firecracker Plant or Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea).

ZilkerkFirecracker Plant or Fountain Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) grows in zone 9 or above.  It’s a nice filler plant.

Zilkerl

ZilkermA Walking Stick on a lamplight globe.

ZilkernI think this is Mexican Heather.

ZilkeroUnknown.

ZilkerpThese gardens looked very Austin, but I personally prefer that botanical gardens be more formal since my own gardens are not.

One note:  there was a large rose garden area, but the bushes were in sad shape and didn’t have many blooms.  I did not think that the roserosette virus had reached Austin yet.  It started in Oklahoma and is in most of North Texas now and is breaking rose lovers hearts.  So far, we have been spared.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Austin Gardens Tour, Part 2

The city of Austin is in the Hill Country and spreads out over cedar covered hills giving it a green vista.  The city center and original settlement is on about the only level ground.  A few of the home gardens on the tour were located there.

But the newer houses and most expensive real estate is on the hills on the outer edges of the city.  Those sites make challenging landscaping for home owners.  This post shows plants from three of those gardens.

austingardenspThis home had a mostly shady garden in an area that hugged the house.   The rest of the land sloped down to a dry creek bed.

This Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia guarantica) grows in shade here with dapples of sunlight.  But most salvia will also do well in sun.

austingardensqStairs led up to the swimming pool on a raised area where the back door to the home was located.  There were palms at several of the homes, but I don’t know what kind of palms.

austingardensrThe lights on the bottle bush was a nice touch.

austingardenssTo the right is the raised area.  Steps led down to another small garden area.  The orange flowers look like Crossvine.

austingardenst This Mexico native is a good low water plant but won’t survive our winters.

austingardensuThe previous yard and this one were both professionally landscaped.

austingardensvThe main feature of this yard was the stunning view.   Behind me as I take this picture is a large grassy lawn.

austingardenswThis last yard was very nicely laid out.  Oak Leaf Acanthus (Acanthus mollis) is a new plant to me.  Information on the net states that  stiff, spiky tubular-shaped flowers emerge from the center of the plant.  Flowers can be white, lilac or rose in color. If this plant is in a hot climate, it needs afternoon shade.  That would be Texas.  It prefers moist soils but will tolerate drier soil.

austingardensxI think this pretty purple plant is Persian Spears.

austingardensyAlthough I’m not especially drawn to agaves, I like Queen Victoria Century Plant (Agave victoriae-reginae). It’s not winter hardy here, but I could probably try it in a container.

austingardenvvWingpod Pursulane (Portulaca umbraticola) is a US native  succulent.  This gardener did a nice job of landscaping with several beds outlined with different materials.  You can see a back row of bricks and a side wood border.

austingardenszThere is a wild one aggressive purslane that comes up in my flowerbeds.  Maybe that’s why it is in a contained area in this garden.

austingardenwwNot sure which sage this is.

austingardenxxIn the bright light behind the kneeling girl is a Shrimp Plant with yellow blooms.  It’s a native of Mexico and does very well in zones 8 and above.

austingardenzzLike the clean, fresh color of this Coleus.

austingardenzzzThis cluster of Plumbago plants (Plumbago auriculata) was in the yard beside the featured garden we were visiting.  Very attractive planting.

That’s the last of the Austin gardens.  There were a nice variety of gardens – shady, sunny, all native, more formal, or less formal natural settings. There was only one garden that I feel should not have been on the tour.  It was sadly neglected.  The reason I mention this is because the houses were scattered all over Austin and required a lot of driving.  So a stop that wasn’t worth the time or gas should not have been included.  Otherwise, it was a worthwhile tour.

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.”   Elizabeth Murray

Lush Costa Rica

While the ice and snow were falling here, we were enjoying the weather of the tropics.  Of course, we had to face the music when we landed at DFW.  After an extra long bus trip to Abilene, we were iced in and had to spend two nights in a motel there.

We traveled to Costa Rica with Bilbrey Tours from Abilene, so our starting and ending points were there.

costarica1The grounds of our first hotel in San Jose, the capital, exhibited the lushness of a warm climate with plenty of rainfall.  I could not resist taking pictures of the beautiful landscaping.  We only over nighted here, so these were taken in early morning conditions.  Even so, the sunlight was strong and the shadows of the buildings, deep.

costarica2Begonias were used in many beds.

costarica3The tropical Ixora thrives here and certainly doesn’t need to be confined to a pot, like mine in Texas.

costarica4It was surprising to see so much Lantana because it survives so well here in dry Texas.  This is probably the New Gold Lantana.

costarica5Here Lil Miss Lantana is mixed in with another flower.  The red blooms may be another Lantana.  I’m not sure.

Many of the beds were in raised concrete that were tiled.  So pretty.

costarica7Not sure what these flowers are.

costarica6I think I should know but don’t.

costarica8Another type of lantana, maybe Lantana Camara, edged with what looks like Alyssum. costaricab

costaricacDeep red Begonias.

costaricaeThis may be Ginger?

costaricafAn open corridor leading from guest rooms to the reception area.

costaricagAgain the white looks like Alyssum and the one with the pink flowers could be Mexican Heather.

costaricahThere were lots of different species of Coleus.

costaricaiWouldn’t it nice to have gardeners who keep everything so trimmed and neat?

costaricajLove Plumbago, although it has to be grown in a container here and carried in for the winter.

costaricak

costaricalThis might be la parola del giorno Lantanta..

costaricanPalm trees with clusters of orchids growing on them.  There are 1,500 different species of orchids in Costa Rica.

costaricamEven though these orchids are growing on a tree, they are not parasites.  They are epiphytes which derives its moisture from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris around it. It does not harm the host at all.

During the trip, we saw many different examples of these.  Epiphytes can be found in the temperate zone.  Examples are mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae.  They also live in the tropics, like Costa Rica’s environment..  These include ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads.

costaricao

costaricap

costaricaqI don’t know if these small branches are part of the palm tree or are epiphytes.

costaricas

costaricar

costaricatSo delicate and lovely.

costaricau

costaricavA skylight in the reception area.

costaricawThe counter is made of onyx.  Although it looks solid, these are slabs on top of wooden cabinets.  Very nice hotel.

costaricaxAs one would expect, gorgeous arrangements of tropical plants decorate the hotel.

There will be several posts about Costa Rica in the coming days.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Cool is Good

What a difference the cool days and nights make.  A sigh of relief is heard from all of nature.

firecrackerBright red  Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var wrightii) shines in the sunlight.  It is not covered in blooms like this today as some have fallen off.

africianbullbineBoth of the above hot weather plants are doing well with the cooler days.  Orange African Bulbine  (Bulbine frutescens) has lots of orange and yellow blossoms waving in the wind.  The bed of purple Wandering Jew also sports many lavender flowers.

bluemistGregg’s Blue Mist (Conclinium greggi) just keeps on giving to the butterflies.  I always puzzle over the name of this plant.  Where is the blue?

bouganvillaEven though Bougainvillea is a warm tropical plant, even it seems to be enjoying less heat.

turkcapTurk’s Cap, Texas Mallow, Mexican Apple, or Bleeding Heart (Malvaviscus drummondii) has outdone itself this year.

Its many good qualities include being drought tolerant, surviving heat, and growing in many types of soils, wet and dry environments, and sun and shade.  This means it is grows well in far West Texas arid sand, in East Texas gumbo soil, and in North Central Texas black clay, and in my rocky caliche.  Hooray for this great plant.

plumbagoImperial blue cap Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate) also has bloomed and bloomed this year.  It is native to South Africa and is an evergreen perennial there.  It loves the sun, but will freeze back here.

iceplantThere seem to be several plants called Ice Plant.  Both of the blossoms of my two look similar, but the leaves are different shapes.  The one in this picture doesn’t bloom  as profusely as the other one.  I have been unable to find a more specific name for them.  But they are wonderful succulents.

mexican petuniaAnother plant that flourishes here and blooms from late spring to the first freeze is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana).  I have the tall version shown in the picture and the low ground cover one.

Sunshine is needed to grown them.  The tall ones form colonies of woody stalks and can be invasive.

mexican petunia2Their flowers have crinkly petals.

Such a nice time of the year.  It’s a good time to enjoy the outdoors.

” I have CDO.  It’s the same thing as OCD, but all the letters are in alphabetical order…As it should be.”
Tee shirt humor

Lookin Good

It’s always amazing to me that some plants do so well in our heat and are at their peak of performance this late in the summer.  Yes, it is still summer weather, no matter the date on the calendar.

africianbullbineAfrican Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens’) and Wandering Purple Jew (Tradescantia palliada) both survive very well.    Both are super tough and have low maintenance.  Of course, the Purple Jew or Purple Heart must be in mostly shade.  It needs just enough light, but not direct sun, to bloom.

bulbineEach year the heavy pots of African Bulbine must be carried into the greenhouse/shed.  This year I planted some directly into a flowerbed.  We’ll see if it survives the winter cold because it’s rated to survive in zones 9 – 11.  Maybe with enough mulch?

The Wandering Jew will also die when the first freeze occurs.  Never fear, it will come back in full force.

woodfernSurprisingly, the Woodland Ferns still look good near the end of September.

plumbagoWow, the Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) just keeps blooming and looking beautiful.

coneflowersAnd the Coneflowers (Echinacea) sparkle like stars.

swampsunflowers6Finally, the Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) have shot up and bloomed.  So tall.  They do not flower until late August or early September.

swampsunflowers5Next year I think I’ll take my friend’s advice and cut them back when they’re about 3 feet tall.  She tells me they will still bloom and not lean so much.swampsunflowers4One reason I don’t cut them back is that I like the palm tree look they have before the long stems shoot up.

turkscapAnother superstar is Turk’s Cap Mallow (Malvaviscus).  I mean that literally.  They are on the Texas Superstar List.  Love their bright color.

Isn’t it great that the long, hot summer is what some plants need to look their best?

“Don’t let the world convince you that trusting is for fools and forgiving is for the weak.  These gifts are blessings given to you that prove that you have an amazing capacity to love and that you have goodness in your heart.”  Brigitte Nicole

Soft Hues

Although I generally prefer bold colors in the landscape, softer ones can make the reds and yellow pop.  More muted colors can also provide a calm feeling.

desertsageThis year the rains we had in June helped the Desert Sages perform like I’ve never seen them.  This is actually a Cinizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) even though we all call it a Texas Sage or Desert Sage.  It’s not even in the sage family.

Absolutely gorgeous.

desertsage3The two above photos show a Desert Sage bush in one flower bed that has flowers with a pinkish tint.

desertsage2This Desert Sage is in a different place.  It’s color has a more purple hue.  It’s amazing how full it was with blossoms.  That’s why in nature, they burst out in color after a rainstorm.  Then very quickly turn back to a silver green foliage plant.

hdulburgsageHenry Duelburg Purple Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is one reliable plant.  For seven years it has bloomed and spread to fill a 11′ x 5′ bed from two small plants.  It’s a favorite of bees.

dscn2155Speaking of pale colors, this bird that sways in the wind is slowly rusting away.  Note the metal fork that balances in that tiny trough.  Strong wind may twist it around or have it hanging by one prong, but it has never fallen to the ground.

plumbagoIt is confirmed that this plant is a Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata).  I posted an earlier picture and wondered about its correct identify.  But recently I saw one at a nursery and feel sure it’s a Plumbago.  All summer it has bloomed like crazy.

indigoferaThis plant was purchased at an independent nursery in Abilene.  I’ve not seen another one.  It was not labeled.  When I asked for a name, it took a long time before someone came to tell me it was an Indigofera.  I’ve looked at pictures of Indigoferas on the web, but they don’t look like this plant.  So, I don’t know for sure what this plant is.

indigofera2The leaves are tough and feel like a succulent.  It grows low on the ground spreading out.  The flowers that resemble Balloon flowers before they open don’t last long, so it’s difficult to see the whole plant in bloom at once.

russiansage4Another great performer is Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).  I first saw this bush in Santa Fe at a family gathering.  All my sisters and I were asking everyone what it was.

russiansage2Hey, I figured if it survived in the dry climate of northern New Mexico, it would make it here.  These have flourished and spread over five years.

They even dry well, and the flowers look pretty much the way they look while living.

russiansage3As the stems are moved around, they have a similar scent as other sages, like the popular ones with  small red flowers.  One is shown to the left in the first picture of the Russian Sage.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But how can one not appreciate the glories of nature.

“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