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.


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

Moss Mountain

The next stop on our trip early in May was Moss Mountain, the farm of P. Allen Smith.  He is considered a plant and animal guru.  His program on HGTV features short vignettes about flower and vegetable gardening as well as raising farm animals and cooking.

mossmThe large post oak in front of the house is named Big Sister.

mossm1On specific days each month, tours of the farm and house are open to the public.  Reservations are necessary, and it’s not cheap.

Allen was not there that day, but the whole day was orchestrated very well.

Lunch was served at noon.  We ate in a room in the barn that had round tables to accommodate 80 people.  The large white tent has long tables for larger groups.

mossm4The house was built in 2007-2008 in the Greek Revival style, which was popular in the south during the mid 1800’s.

I had assumed that the property was inherited, but it was found by his friend who had flown a plane over the area and described it to Allen.

mossm2A dry rub of sulfur was put on the brick to provide an old house look.  The room protruding out on the left side is an art studio.  He also does some painting.


mossm6The room on the right side of the house is the kitchen.

mossm7Behind the house in the gardens are three other buildings.  One is seen here.

mossm8My pictures don’t do justice to the gardens.  Behind the house are two parallel walkways through the bushes, flowers, and trees.  They are on different levels since the ground slopes down towards the Arkansas River.

mossm9Most of the flowerbeds were designed like this one with tall shrubs in the back, shorter ones in front of those, and low annuals in front.  Lots of manpower needed to plant all those flowers.

mossmaaThis is the side door into the art studio.

mossmbA corner bed where a pathway from the house joins another walkway.  The lime green plant is Stonecrop Sedum.  It was used in several places to frame a bed.

mossmbbGerbera Daisies with Petunias

mossmccWe did not go into the two smaller houses in the back because the doors were closed.

mossmdThis shows the slope down to the first path behind the house.

mossmddI was surprised that pots around the garden contained agaves.  That area is in the same plant zone I’m in:  8a, used to be 7b.  Some years during cold winters, they would freeze.  Maybe they do bring them inside, but that looks like a heavy metal container.

mossmeAllen designed these white towers.

mossmeeAlthough I don’t know the size of the gardens around the house; I’m guessing it would be two or three acres.

Most of the rose bushes around the house appeared to be Knockouts.

mossmfThis hexagon or octagon (can’t remember) building was on lowest side of the garden paths.

mossmffThere was straw on the floor, but I don’t know the building’s purpose.

mossmgIn the background is the river.  Many of the gardens are organized and neat but informal in the plantings.

mossmggPathways led to some garden rooms or sections that are somewhat closed off.

mossmhAs I remember, these are testing beds.  There were small signs in several beds throughout the gardens that indicate that different growers had provided plants.




mossmjjThese gates open to a more formal garden style.

mossmkThis grassy area is between two rows of trees leading to this statue and hedge.

One of the amazing things about Moss Mountain is how much has been accomplished in a few years.  There will be more posts about this tour.

“It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.”  Old Cowboy Adage

Icy, Cold White

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that there are some things we can plan for but do not have control over the results.  I was specifically talking  about a recent trip when we were unable to visit public parks because the US government had closed them during the government shutdown.

Reservations had been made at several stops weeks in advance of our departure.   Another glitch halted our plans.

snowSDak3A freak snowstorm hit South Dakota.  At first, when it started snowing at our cabin outside of Hill City, we thought it was beautiful.  The locals had assured us that it wouldn’t be anything to worry about because it was way too early in the year for a heavy snow.

News reports have since reported that 100,000 cattle froze to death during this storm.

snowSDakWe did go to the grocery store for a few items in case it was too cold to get out the next day.

snowSDak2The snow started falling in the afternoon of Oct. 4.

snowSDak6The next morning I took this picture on the porch of the cabin.  Surprisingly, the two hanging baskets of petunias were still alive.

A little after noon, the electricity went out.  We’ve had some experience with this situation at our ranch.  No electricity in the country means no water and no toilet and no heat.

The cabins are owned by a couple.  He came to tell us that he could move us to a cabin with radiant gas heat.  We thought we could tough it out, but he didn’t think so.  Boy, are we glad that he insisted.

snowSDak7More snow fell during the night – 36″ total.

snowSDak4The owner was out early with his skid loader with a bucket working to keep the driveway clear so we could walk to the main lodge.

snowSDak8The owners, Steve and Jan, were fantastic.  They offered sweet rolls and coffee to all the guests.  Then at lunch, they provided snack type foods.  One cabin had a gas stove, so she cooked soup and chili for everyone.

snowSDakgHere Steve is piling up more snow.

snowSDak9Their sons shoveled snow so people could get out of the cabins.

snowSDakaBy Oct. 5, the roads were still closed, so that meant another day without electricity.  Hill City, a mile or so away, had electricity, so the owners went in for water and other supplies.

snowSDak5We stayed an extra night because roads were still closed.  The owners even offered a free night to everyone.  This definitely wasn’t their fault.  So why shouldn’t we pay?

snowSDakbPlenty of the white stuff.

snowSDakeThis was our original cabin on the other side of the sign.  I had chosen it sight unseen because it had a full kitchen.  Don’t know why I wanted a full kitchen because I didn’t cook.

The first night after we moved to a different cabin, a tree branch laden with snow fell on the roof of our original cabin.  It didn’t break through but must have sounded threatening.

snowSDakfThe newer cabins have the gas heat and are much nicer.

We left on Oct. 6 even though there were some warnings about the roads, and I 90 West was supposed to still be closed.  That did not prove to be true.

After we returned home, we heard from the owners that the electricity did not come back on until the evening of Oct. 9.  I really feel for them.  Their clean-up must have been extensive.

So if you’re ever in western South Dakota, consider the Pine Rest Cabins.  The owners are wonderful people.

“Courtesies cannot be borrowed like snow shovels; you must have some of your own.”  John Wanamaker