Tall, Slender, and Elegant

Guess we all wish that title described us.  But, in this case, that means plants, not people.

Tall, of course, can be relative.   Larkspurs bloom on tall stems, as do Cannas, and the flowers of Red Yucca, so I’m including them.  Canna lilies, although not true lilies, grow from rhizomes and are faithful to return each spring.  Because they multiply, they are usually a pass-a-long plant.

One great thing about re-blooming Iris is that it flowers at unexpected times.

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) are a wonderful spring blooming annual, if you’re not picky about where it pops up in years to come.  They are generous re-seeders.

I had never considering planting their seeds until I saw them in a friend’s yard.  She generously shared some seeds; so I’ve enjoyed them ever since no matter where they appear.

Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba”)  is a small flowering tree with multiple trunks.  These tend to grow tall and remain slender.  The flowers look like lovely small orchids.

Desert Willows are native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Texas.

The thin stems of (Gaura Llindheimeri) keep growing taller throughout the hot months of summer until they hide whatever is behind them.  So I should have planted them in their own space, but I didn’t.

As they sway in the breeze, they are reminiscent of butterflies.  Thus a common name for them is Twirling Butterflies.

I also have a Pink Gaura which has reappeared after several years of being absent.  Gaura roots seem to endure very well.  They could be considered a bully, but I like them, anyway.

After my experience with Hollyhocks and Rust disease, I was undecided whether or not to dig up this one that came from some remaining roots.  After checking it over and keeping a close watch on it, it has survived disease-free and has produced beautiful flowers.  But it has been a rather dry spring.  If and when we get lots of rain, the disease will probably reappear.

Every year I rave about Henry Duelberg Saliva (Salvia farinacea).  I think it should be a staple that is used more often in zones 7b – 10a.

The white Augusta Duelberg Salvia (wife of Henry) is a companion that usually comes up in a bed of Henry Duelberg Salvia.  Don’t know how that works botanically.

In this picture, the Russian Sage is the tall slender beauty.  In front of it is Salvia Greggi and behind it is a huge Earthkind® rose bush on the left and Knockouts® on the right.

The hardiness and aroma of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) makes it a worthwhile plant, especially for arid areas.  It is native to the steppes, which are grassy plains, of southwestern and central Asia, so the name is appropriate.

Bee Balm or Monarda might not be considered elegant by some some people, but it’s a notable plant to attract pollinators.  Plus, I think it’s pretty, if it can be staked so that it won’t flop over.  I chose to put a cage around it to hold it up.

Gladiolus often need staking, but Atom Gladiola is a shorter version that doesn’t lean over too much.

These bulbs were ordered two or three years ago from Old House Gardens, which specializes in heirloom bulbs.

Although many of Old House Garden bulbs date back to the 1700’s, this particular bulb was hybridized in 1946.

The old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is true to many things, including plants.  So choose what plants you think fall into the category of tall, slender, and elegant.

“When life gives you a rainy day, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles.”  unknown

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Flower Bunches

One philosophy of landscape designers is to plant large sweeps of one color for a bold eye catching display.  They also say to have a limited number of plant varieties in a yard.  Now I don’t follow either of those landscape rules.  Not that I doubt their validity.  It just that I prefer a cottage garden look.

bunches2At this time of the year, those mass plantings that I do have look kind of scraggly after a long summer.

In my opinion, one of the best plants to draw butterflies is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium Greggii).  But even large groups of them aren’t that impressive except for all the activity of beautiful butterflies darting all around.

bunches4To really see the flowers themselves requires a close up shot.  They are like little puffs of pale lavender.

bunches3Migrating Monarchs stop to feast for a day or two.

bunchesThis year I vow to divide the Purple Asters.  If only making that statement would get the job done.

bunches1Some plants like this Russian Sage grew and spread beyond what I had expected.  Putting one tiny plant in the ground, I certainly did not leave enough room for them to expand.  So they are wedged between Earthkind® Roses and Salvia Greggi.

bunches6I have planted these Coral Drift Roses since this picture was taken.  They are low growing, spreading bushes with clusters of roses from spring until frost.

Last year we planted five along one edge of a bed.  I had planned to put something else along the other edge.  I tried some irises, but it looked lopsided after their blooms ended.  So these are to fill in to make one larger group of roses.

buncheskHere is a close up from one of the bushes from last year.  Drift roses are a variety of Knock-out® roses.

bunches7Sometimes groups of flowers can be small but their brilliant color still grabs one’s attention.  This Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) came from a friend.  Many stems have been cut and rooted and shared.

Note the thorns on the stems.  I have a cheap pair of kitchen tongs I use to handle them.  Most of these stems will be cut off soon because it is too difficult to put the pot in the shed without tearing skin.

bunches8Gorgeous clusters of bright red from this Bougainvillea, still blooming in late October, steals the spotlight.  It also has thorns and will need to be repotted in a larger container as well as trimmed back.

bunchesbAnother striking blossom made up of tiny flowers is found on the Vitex tree or large shrub (Vitex agnus-castus) .  Its upright bunches are very attractive.

Whatever your garden style is, just enjoy it.

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.”  unknown

Purple Spires

Bright colors in the yard make me smile.  I prefer more muted colors inside my house but purple, red, and yellow are my favorite choices for flowers.

purple3Larkspurs are still blooming where ever they choose.  They aren’t well behaved and stay where they were first seeded.  It’s always a pleasant surprise to see where they come up each spring.  The reds here are Red Yucca and Cannas.  However, the Cannas seem to be blooming more orangey than before.  So I wonder if red ones are hybrids and they are reverting back to their original color.

purple9I have a conundrum.  For years I have thought this bush was Blue Curls.  I think I bought it at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Since I had never heard of Blue Curls before, I must have seen it labeled that, but I can’t be sure.

purple8I had previously noticed the similarity of the flowers and leaves to another bush in the back of the house.  But this morning for some reason it struck me that they are much more than similar.

purple6

purple5You know how it is to get your mind set one way and not see the truth.  So I’m not going to beat myself up for this mistake.  But I do not think this is a Blue Curls.

purplecThis is a Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) tree in the back yard that was planted two years ago.  It was bought at a local nursery and was clearly labeled.

The following three pictures are of this same tree.

My reference point for a Vitex comes from a huge tree planted in the parking lot of the hospital in Brownwood.  So I didn’t expect one to look like a bush.

purpledDo you see my confusion?  I now think both are Vitex.  I have pruned the branches on the one in the front for several years to get it fuller, which has also kept it shorter.

purpleeAlso known as Chaste Tree, Lilac Chaste Tree, Hemp Tree, Sage Tree, or Indian Spice, it is a native of China and India.  But it has been grown in the southern US since 1670.

purplefDifferent parts of the tree have long been used for medicinal purposes.  Another name for Vitex is Monk’s Pepper because it was thought that its berries helped monks maintain their chastity.

It’s a great tree/shrub for pollinators.  The color of the blooms are fantastic.

purple4As I was taking pictures, a visitor strolled quickly by.

purpleffThe flower spires on Russian Sage are a light purple or lavender.

purpleiAlthough not a spire, these Petunias are a deep purple.

purplejThis pot was already filled when I bought it.  The lady did not know the names of the other two plants in it.

purplekThe foliage of Ajuga ground cover is more important to most people than the pale lavender blooms.

purplelAnd lastly, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is sandwiched between Greggi Sage and Rose bushes.  It has a wonderful aroma and is a great hardy perennial.

“Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Nolan of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God.”  Richmond, Virginia daily newspaper

Before the First Frost

Our first freeze was a few days ago with a low of 28.  So it’s farewell to flowers and warm weather.  Being forewarned by the meteorologists, we took an afternoon and hauled pot plants into the sheds.  Of course, that time included cleaning out the sheds and carrying some things, like fertilizer spreaders, that won’t be needed this winter to the barn.

Both metal sheds have skylights and blown insulation.  One has a heater sensitive to temperatures.  That’s where ferns and other tender plants are stored.  Plants that I don’t want to freeze but can survive some cold go into the other shed.

fall2yardOne final bloom from the tropical Hibiscus.  I know I show a lot of pictures from this bush.  But, in my defense, the flower color is stunning.

fall2yard4These small pots of Ajuga Bugel Weed (Ajuga reptans) go into the shed.  If the plants were in the ground, then they should come survive.  But I’m not sure how well they would do in the pots.  Most often, Ajuga functions as ground cover, but I can’t decide where I want to use them.

The African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) definitely has to be protected.  It’s one of those plants sold way north from its home.  Probably, the big box stores intend for customers to use them as annuals.  Crazy me.  I get attached to plants.

fallyardhThese mums are local buys that will be carried inside and out as needed for decorations.  Then next spring, I’ll plant them in a flowerbed or larger pots.

fallyardiThis variety was bought at a grocery store – couldn’t resist.

fallyardjThe red tips caught my eye.

fallcolor4Roses were still blooming right up until the freeze.  These are Knock-outs with some Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  in front.

fall2yard2Katy Road Roses are central Texas hardy that survive blazing summers and intermittent freezes during the winters.

fall2yard3I don’t know the name of this rose, but it, also, is a hardy bush here.  Roses are actually easy to grow.  Until we moved here, I didn’t have a place for them.  They absolutely must have sun and some water.  Drip system works well.

fallyardgYellow Knock Out Roses.

fallyardePink Knock-Outs.

fallyardcI always dread for the last blossoms on Duranta (Duranta erecta) to die because I know it will be months and months until they bloom again in late July.

fallcolorSome of first signs of autumn here are the red berries and golden orangeish leaves on the Chinese Pistache tree (Pistacia chinensis).

fallcolor3The Red Oak leaves turning copper are next.

fallcolor7This is a different Red Oak, and it’s covered with acorns.

fallcolor5Finally, the berries on Possomhaw (Ilex decidua) get larger and turn bright red.

Nature is always in flux, as we must be.

May you and your family have time together to celebrate the blessings of life.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;                                             let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.                             Let us come before him with thanksgiving                                         and extol Him with music and song.”             Psalm 95:1-2

Autumn is Awesome

The cooler days and nights with highs in the 60’s has rejuvenated us all.  Plus a few misty days and overcast skies has relieved all plant life from being attacked by harsh sunlight.

So I’m taking a break from the Arkansas posts to show what’s happening in the yard.

fallyardbMost of the Bluemist Flowers have faded but these are full and fluffy – reminds me of tiny pompoms.

fallyard12Potted Bougainvillea’s colors have deepened and are a tropical delight to enjoy.

fallyard11Even the Russian Sage has more blooms.

fallyard10Some flowers are bravely hanging onto an old-fashioned Geranium.  Wind gusts have been high lately.

fallyard9Salvia Greggi in a pot provides bright color.

fallyard8Boston Ferns in the back with a large Kalanchoe in front are massed in a corner by the house.  In front is Coleus and an Airplane or Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum).

The Coleus came from cuttings from a friend.  I’ve already taken cuttings inside to create another pot next year.  They will root in water and still make a pretty decoration while doing so. Also, I may need them to start again next spring since I don’t know how well this will survive in the house this winter.

The Spider Plant has been in this pot for years.  They prefer to be root bound.  Everything in this picture was a pass along plant except the ferns.  And those come from the original two that I bought, which have been divided many times over the years.

fallyard7Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) has a few blooms.

fallyard6Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) has lost most of its leaves but still has some wonderful velvet blossoms.

fall2yard5The one I had last year did not make it through the winter.  So I’ve taken some cuttings and hope they will root in case a freeze does this one in.

fallyard2Gray Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea incana) still has a few flowers, which surprised me.  I consider this was a hot weather bloomer.

fallyard3This little bee was flitting back and forth searching for an open bud.  Since this picture was taken many flowers have opened.

fallyard4Gray santolina or lavender cotton (S. chamaecyparissus) has some interesting characteristics.  It grows tight with little space between its branches.  I like the rounded shape and love the soft texture of it.  There aren’t many plants that I touch as I pass by, but this is one.

fallyard1Cooper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) has its main blooming in late fall with a less spectacular blooming in the spring.  It is drought tolerant and one tough cookie once established.

fallyardThis daisy is a Texas native that is found only in nurseries that carry natives.  I found it at Natives of Texas in Kerrville.  An odd quirk of this plant is its smell.  It stinks and reminds me of kerosene.  That made for bit of a smelly car on the way home from Kerrville.  But a plus is that deer stay away from it.

Cool days, some rain, and long lasting flowers make autumn, when we have it, special.

“Autumn’s the mellow time.”   William Allingham

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

Gardening Challenges

Anyone who has dug a hole for plants and tended them with the anticipation of growing vegetables, flowers, trees, or just green bushes knows the frustrations of gardening.

There are basically two categories of challenges.  Things that are out of our control, like weather.  Then there problems that are of our own making.  Boy, do I know that one.

Warning:  The following pictures are depressing (at least, for me, since they’re from my yard.)

problems3Gardeners usually plant for the average rainfall that can be expected.  So here, where our annual average is 27 inches, drought tolerant plants are recommended.

But this was a most unusual year.  In May, it rained 14 inches.  That hasn’t happened since 1895.  So far, our rainfall has been just under 26 inches this year.

I’m definitely not complaining about rain.  It’s just that some  drought tolerant plants got root rot from too much rain in a short time.  Especially here in our clay and caliche soil.

The above picture is one of my favorite native plants succumbed to wet caliche – Texas Yellow Bells.

problems1It’s probably best to consider the most dominant weather factor in a particular area.  For us, that’s heat.  So drought tolerant plants must be our choice.  Even if that means losing some when we have extreme unusual conditions, like our rare rainfall this year.

This Almond Verbena couldn’t take the soggy ground.

problems7Soil is another big issue.  Clay and caliche just don’t cut it for gardening.  So the choices seem to be:  amend the soil or use raised beds.  We’ve tried a little of both.  The easiest solution is definitely raised beds.

problems8Then we have the heat.  August has brought blistering 103 temps.  Frequent watering just keeps everything from  burning up.   problems5Insect and critter pests are also problems for gardeners.   For several years, grasshoppers have been our plague.  They can defoliate a plant in a few hours.

They’re happily chomping on this Russian Sage.

problems6Here are the remaining stems.

Gardeners have to choose where to be totally organic or to tackle problems with pesticides.   Since we live in the country, we don’t spray for bugs because it would be useless.  We just hope plants will recover the next spring.

Other pests for us include armadillos and skunks digging in the yard, especially when the surrounding fields are so dry.

problems4In the rear right hand side of this photo is a tower trellis that has been lifted up and twisted by a climbing rose.

Landscape design has become a hot topic in the gardening world.  It’s one of my weakest skills.  Even though I’ve read the books and attended classes, I still tend to underestimate the mature size of bushes.    Plus, I use more varieties of plants than what is recommended.  My excuse is that I don’t know what will survive, so I try them out.

problems2Sometimes, we’re faced with a “What happened?” problem.  Detective work or seeking advice sometimes helps.  Other times, it just remains a mystery.

One day this native Redbud tree was healthy and the next, it looked pathetic.

problemsAnother what happened.  This Mexican Feather grass may be a casualty of water staying clay or of something else.

Gardening experts warn against planting imported plants that are invasive.  But my archenemy is our native Bermuda grass.  Its runners constantly invade flowerbeds and put down deep roots.  We also have an many assorted weeds.  Most of those are easier to pull than the grass.  Examples of these are in this pix.

If you click on the links, there are nicer pictures of the plants before they bit the dust.

Wherever one lives, gardening is not an easy hobby.  But the rewards are fantastic.  So a gardener’s motto is just keep on working and experimenting.

“Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling