Fabulous Fall

A little rain and cooler weather does wonders for us all.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) is a zone 9a – 11 plant; therefore it’s a pot plant for me.  Even though it loves heat, it does much better here in a shady area.  Our blazing hot sun burns tender leaves.

Everything I’ve read indicates that it is a pollinator magnet, but I’ve never seen one on or near it.  It’s a conundrum.

Scented Geraniums also like the heat but wilt in direct sunlight.  This one is so pretty with an impressionist painting look.

Don’t have a clue what this plant is.  It’s in a pot, so I must have planted it.  Or maybe it’s one I brought from Mother’s house.

It has been outside all summer and only got berries on it a few weeks ago.  Those berries turned into these pretty clusters of miniature flowers.  Anyone know?  Please comment if you know.

After some harsh cold spells last winter, this large shrub was dead as a doornail.  Then, two little stems came up.  We cut the large branches and main trunk off.  The stump is in the lower right corner.

One of my all time favorite flowering bushes, Texas Flowering Senna (Senna corynbosa) is hopefully going to survive.  These are difficult to find since most nurseries don’t carry them.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), is also known as French Mulberry, American Mulberry, Spanish Mulberry, Bermuda Mulberry, Sour, and Sow-berry.  I much prefer Beautyberry because the vibrant neon color of the berries is astounding.

Of course, they don’t survive our winters but do well in a protected shed.

Autumn means pretty colorful leaves.  This red one was found in a dry creek bed.  I’m not sure what tree it’s from.

Just got this birdhouse and signs up recently.  My husband painted the signs, while I painted and decorated the birdhouse.  The pole stands at the edge of a bed of native orange Cannas.

The days are comfortably warm, but the sun is still bright.  Wonderful autumn days pull me outside to enjoy the relief from summer heat.

The flowers of this African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) bounce playfully when there is a breeze.

Not sure what kind of Purple Asters these are.  In the spring, I divided them and spread them out more.

Just love the bright cheeriness of them.

Ixora (Ixora coccinea) blooms from the time we bring it outside each spring and even retains some blossoms in the shed through the winter in the shed.  But near the end of summer, most flowers drop off.  Then magically, it blooms again.

A tropical shrub native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, it is also the national flower of Suriname.

Such a lovely color.

Hope you are enjoying autumn weather where you are.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L. M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables 

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Pops of Color

As summer drags on with no rain, the field grasses are drying, so that’s a drab sight.   Some brightness in the yard is definitely needed.

Old fashioned Geraniums ignore the heat and keep on blooming, but they can’t handle full sun.

I got a start of these several years ago at a club plant sale and have kept several pots since then.  They’re easy to propagate by cutting off a stem and sticking it into soil.  Sometimes I remember to dip the stem in a rooting compound and sometimes I don’t.

Rose Moss(Portulaca grandiflorais) is another good old reliable.  This pot has been on my porch for about six years.  Every spring I question whether or not it survived the winter cold.  Then, just when I’m about to give up, they sprout and bloom.

When I think about how long some of these plants have been in the same pot, it surprises me.  This Oxalis Triangularis or Purple Shamrock (Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis) is probably 11 years old.

Every winter, it goes into the heated shed, so I don’t know if it would recover otherwise. Cold hardiness is zone 7 – 11, but I don’t trust the new 8 zone listed for us.

I think this is Antimima concinna, a type of Ice Plant, that is in the Aizoaceae family.  The Aizoaceae family is huge with over 1800 species and is mostly endemic to Southern Africa.

This has been in this pot so long that I don’t even remember where it came from.  This lovely small flower is another one that will return after a severe winter.

http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/aizoaceae.html is a good source for all these succulents that look so much alike.

Tropical Ixora (Ixora coccinea) grows in most tropical areas but is prominent in Asian tropical countries.  The leaves feel stiff.  The clusters of tangerine colored flowers last a long time on the stems.

Mine is in mostly shade but gets a shot of late afternoon sun.  About 12 years old, this plant is a winner in my book.

Gorgeous.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is truly thorny, so it’s difficult to re-pot.  Mostly, I keep cutting off the long stems and starting new plants for plant sales or passalongs.  The stems need to harden a couple of days before planting.

About six years ago, I got a cutting from a friend.  The flowers last for months and are in a lovely color.  Native to Madagascar, they are tropical.

This spring I found a Thornless Crown of Thorns or Gerold’s Spurge (Euphorbia geroldii) at a nursery near Kerrville.  Whoopee.  It’s great to not dodge the thorns.

It is hardly to 30 degrees and likes semi-shade.  Mine gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  It will bloom just about year round, if brought inside during the winter.

Love it.

Finally, my Bougainvilla (Bougainvillea spectabilis)  is blooming.  Every year, I get impatient for this beauty to strut its stuff.

It needs lots of hot sun, lots of water, and some fertilizer to get it going.  The first time I saw this plant years ago on Turks and Caicos, I was smitten.  Even on those wind swept islands, it bloomed and flourished.

Such a beauty.

Hope some color is brightening your summertime.

“Credit is what keeps you from knowing how far past broke you are.  Debt is slavery of the free.”  unknown

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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

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

Orange in the Yard

The trend this year seems to be orange:  wear it and decorate with it.  Wearing it doesn’t work for my skin tones.  Nor do I use it much inside my house.  But outside it perks up spaces.

orangeyellowEvery year the old-fashioned orange Daylilies usher in spring so reliably and lift the spirits to say, “Winter is over.  Hurrah.”

orangeyellow8A generous gift of probably 60 bulbs from a friend about nine years ago, they keep on giving.  No problems, no worries.  Just plant and water occasionally.

orangeyellow9Three years ago, I moved a few that were on the edge of the bed to this spot.  The green leaves of a Rose of Sharon bush behind them makes them the star of the show.  Later, hibiscus-like flowers from the bush will provide some color.

orangeyellow3One lone Daylily that has come up around the corner of the house with some Violets that have also crept into this bed.

orangeyellowcFinal one.  Just can’t stop snapping pix of these beauties.

Orange is a funny word.  It’s one of the few words in English that no other word rhymes with.  Actually, languages are strange.  There’s a NPR radio program that answers questions about old family sayings and language, in general.  Check out  “A Way with Words” and let me know what you think..

orangeyellowaThe African Bulbine flowers combine yellow and orange.  They’re wispy and move in the breeze.  Since it originates from below the equator, it must be protected in cold weather.

orangeyellow2A striking small ornamental tree is Bird of Paradise.  There are at least three types of Bird of Paradise sold.

The one in the picture is Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii).  The flowers are yellow with orange stamens.   Because of old incorrect informtion, I usually call it Mexican Bird of Paradise.

Ones with bright orange flowers is Pride of Barbados  (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  These are prominent in large box stores.  My experience has been that they die in winter here.

Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) has yellow flowers and yellow stamens.  Since they all look similar, it can be confusing to choose the one that works for you.

orangeyellow4Tropicana Roses are one of those indefinable colors, but there’s an orange tint to them.  Another great performer.  This year it has been filled with flowers.  I cut them often to bring inside, but soon more appear.

orangeyellowhIxora did not fare well this past winter in the shed, but enough survived to flower.  Maybe some fresh air and sunshine will bring new growth.

orangeyellowiMost of my Ice Plants have pink flowers.  This one from a friend has orangish ones.

Maybe you can decide on a specific color pattern for your yard.  I simply can’t.  Therefore, I have a hodgepodge.  This is not what designers recommend.

“Every time I get mad, I remind myself that prison orange is not my color.”    Unknown

Pacific Coast in Costa Rica

Our hotel complex Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort in Guanacaste on the Pacific coast was huge with buildings and gorgeous landscape on both sides of the main road.  A traffic guard stopped traffic when any guests needed to cross.

CostaRIn fact, all guests wore wrist bands, like hospital ids, as proof they could access the property.  The bands could not be removed and passed to someone else.  So they were cut off as we boarded the bus to leave.

CostaR1All of the Mayan looking statutes seemed strange to me.  According to our very knowledgeable guide, there were only about 50,000 natives in the whole country area when the Spanish landed in what is today southern Costa Rica.   Among the natives were 27 different languages, ethnicities, and ruling orders.  They have been almost completely absorbed by the Spanish.

The flowers above are Ixora.

CostaR7If you have been to a resort area in Mexico, this had the same feel about it.

CostaR2The way this soil and grass is built up around the trunk of this palm is the exact opposite of what tree arborists instruct here.

CostaR9Lovely  beach.

CostaRb

CostaRfI love these small flat topped trees.  They make a great shade.

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CostaRhThis iguana ran under my lawn chair.

CostaRiHe was only about 18″ long.

CostaReHow these Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) survive in direct sun is a mystery.  Recommended growing conditions are bright indirect light, humid air, and cooler temperatures.

The weather was all over the place on this trip.  This was a really hot spot with full tropical sunlight.  In the afternoon it was definitely uncomfortable to be outside.

CostaRkUnknown to me, like most of the tropical plants, but beautiful.

CostaRoThis Strangler Fig provided the shade for one of the hotel’s dining areas right by the beach.  These trees in the Ficus family grow up around another tree and eventually kill it.  This most often happens in forests where the competition for light is fierce.

CostaRn

CostaRpA hatched cabana similar to many seen on Caribbean islands.

We ate our meals in the dining room behind this cabana.

IMG_3506At all of our hotels except one, the restaurants were open aired.  One morning this bird joined us.  He hopped boldly on tables and chairs.

This picture and the following two were provided by Diane Atchison.  She was in our group and very generously shared her pictures and gave permission for me to post them.

IMG_3489From my internet search, this is a Costa Rica Bluebird.  Very cute.

IMG_3520Perfect shot.  Thanks, Diane.

CostaRdThe sidewalks through the “village” of hotel buildings had lovely leaf impressions.  Manpower must be cheap.

CostaRrMangoes growing by the balcony near our room.

CostaRmAlthough I’m not a real beach person, the scenes were lovely and peaceful.

CostaR8The sun is low and many were enjoying water activities.

CostaR3All these following shots is my attempt to show the sun setting over the Pacific.

CostaR4

CostaR5

CostaR6

CostaRcThe hotel swimming pool in the cool of the evening.

This was probably the only truly relaxed part on our trip.  Most days we were on the move with early morning departures to travel or to visit sights.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”  William James

Tropical Plants

Even though I absolutely cannot stand humidity, the lush greenery and flowers that are the result of all that moisture captivate me.  There is something magical and mysterious about tropical jungles and the plants that grow there.  So I have the desire to grow a few.

tropics6Bougainvillea is available at almost every nursery in Texas.  It actually does very well here because it loves our heat.

It likes to be root bound, which is good because the pots don’t have to be too large to transport inside.

tropics3It’s main requirements are sunshine and water, so if I am faithful to water, it will bloom and bloom.  But there should be good drainage in the pot, so that it does not have standing water.  I water them two or three times a week in the hottest part of the summer.

The fact that Bougainvillea cannot survive cold weather can also be accommodated with inside shelter during the winter.  So it’s is not a crazy choice for Central Texas.

tropics4The vibrant color is what grabs me.

I’ve read that fertilizer specifically made for Hibiscus works well, but I have not tried that.

When we carry the pots inside, we cut back the branches.  This has always been done to prevent being grabbed by the thorns.  As it turns out, it blooms on new growth, so cutting back is a good thing and should be done before spring.

tropics5Just cannot not beat this beauty.

tropicsAnother tropical plant that has been successful for me is Ixora (Ixora coccinea).  This one is about 10 years old and has been in this pot most of that time.

I fertilize it the same as other potted plants, which is not often.  But I do sprinkle timed fertilizer granules in the spring and maybe again in early fall.

tropics1Isn’t the color amazing?

This pot also goes into the shed/greenhouse when the temperatures drop near freezing.  Usually some of the flowers die but the leaves remain throughout the winter.

purchase2Now we get to a really foolish purchase.  I knew when I bought this Fuchsia that it probably would not survive here, but couldn’t resist the chance to try.  It was actually bought at a nursery that normally only sells reliable plants for local areas.  This was an impulse buy, which is hardly ever wise.

purchase3The unusual drooping flowers enticed me.  But if I had done some research, I would have known that temperatures above 80 degrees weaken the plant, and that it cannot tolerate too much sunshine.  I did have it in shade, but then the high temperatures came.

Fuchsia also needs frequent watering and regular fertilizer.  So the likelihood of survival was doomed from the day I bought it.

purchase4Very exotic.

purchase5Alas, it only lasted three months.

As experienced gardeners say:  Learn to love the plants that grow well in your environment.  A lesson that some of us have to learn over and over.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”  Harold Coffin