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

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