A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

What Is and Is to Come

Last days of winter – maybe.  Warms days followed by cold days creates a confusing message to nature.

The dried blossoms of Sedum Autumn Joy can be sprayed and used in flower arrangements.  Silver paint makes them look classy.

Plus, Sedum Autumn Joy is a wonderful succulent that is reliable.  Green leaves are already popping up.

Bi-color Iris (Dietes bicolor) or African Iris or Fortnight Lily forms a clump with long sword like leaves.  It’s a native to South Africa, so I’m hoping that it will recover from the hard freezes this year.

Texas Flowering Senna produces tons of seed pods.  After giving lots away, these were left.  The strange thing is that with all these seeds, there are no seedlings that come up under the bush.

Texas Flowering Senna displays stunning yellow flowers that last for about seven months.  Can’t wait.

The leaves of Red Yucca are still green but the tall flower stems are dry.  The flowers leave a hard shell with black seeds.

Most of its leaves are still clinging to one Red Oak in the yard.  The strong winds haven’t dislodged them  yet.  Before long, new leaves will sprout.

There are several varieties of Senna.  Not sure which one this is.

Interesting flower seed pods and branch forms.

Clusters of dried False Foxglove seed pods make me anxious for the return of their white petals with pink splotches.This time of year wild creatures are astiring.  A group of wild turkeys passed through behind the house.  Stealthily, I cracked open the back door and poked my camera through it.

From the road wild turkeys don’t appear to have much color, but a zoom lens shows their pretty feathers.

Looks like two old gossipers speaking solemnly about something.

Guess mating season has started, meaning new little ones.

Can you tell that I am ready for spring with its warm weather and pretty colors.  I know, I know.  It’s still February.  Just daydreaming.

“If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”  Joey Adams

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Morning Snow

Early this morning I stepped outside on the front porch to photograph the snowfall.

snow4The cold wind kept me close to the front door.  Snow had dusted the leaves of a Live Oak.

snow5Probably less than an inch fell, but it’s such a rare event here that it’s mesmerizing.

snow6The rays of the rising sun swept across the trees.

snow7The Chinese Pistasho had a golden glow from the sun.

snow9During the night strong winds formed small snowdrifts with shapes that reminded me of White Sands in New Mexico.

snowaIn the distance the Blue Junipers looked like Christmas trees.

snowb

snowcA snow mound formed over a flowerbed.

snowdDead leaves still clinging to a Red Oak.

snow1The side yard as seen from the back patio revealed snow on only one side of tree trunks.  Maybe it was the wind that woke me at 4 this morning.

In the foreground is a Yaupon Holly.  To the right is a bare branched Red Oak.

snow8One bush beyond the yard looked like white lace.

snowSnow on one side of the Cherry Laurel tree.

snow3More Live Oaks.

snow2Cotton ball snow on tips of Sedum Brilliant dried flowers.

snowfSnow covered Autumn Clematis, which is evergreen.

snowgNice to look at, but not drawing me out into the weather.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Dr. Suess

Fall Color in All Its Glory

The conditions for leaves to turn color in the fall involve the right temperatures at the right times and the right amount of rainfall at the right times.  In the fifteen years that we’ve owned the property, there has been some color, but nothing like this year.  Just spectacular.

autumncolors3This first group of pictures were taken from a state highway as we were driving home from town.  Don’t you love the quaint setting?

autumncolorsSumacs are clustered close to the shed.

autumncolors1Old buildings pose questions to me.  I wonder about the people who lived there – their joys and sorrows.  They represent someone’s life.

autumncolors2All these buildings were on an old homestead.

autumncolors4This next group of pictures were taken on our county road.  All pictures in this post were made on a cloudy misty day.

autumncolors5For a half a mile, this road is flanked by dense trees and vegetation.  It feels like driving through a tunnel of trees.

autumncolors6Not sure if the red leaves are Red Oaks (Quercus texana) or Shin Oaks (Quercus sinuata).   Shin Oaks are also known as White Oak, Scrub Oak, Scalybark Oak or Bigelow Oak.  They tend to be low growing, about 3 to 5 feet tall, and grow so densely that they become a thicket.  They are native to areas that have hard limestone.

autumncolors8

autumncolorsaShiny from the moisture in the air.

autumncolorscThe thin yellow leaves are Prairie Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) with clusters of berries that the birds love.  They turn red first and fade into this paler color.

autumncolorsdThe trees thin out on this part of the road, partly because they have been cleared by county crews.  I think these are both Red Oaks.

It seems like the colors deepen and change daily or least weekly.

autumncolorseNow we are a mile from our gate entrance.

autumncolorsf

autumncolorsmThese photos are made from our front porch.  It’s raining a little harder now.

autumncolorsh

autumncolorsiA Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis) in the yard is framed by a native Live Oak.

autumncolorsrIn the distance is a Lombardy Poplar tree in front of a stone cabin on our property.  We use it for extra guest space.  Poplars always seem old fashioned to me – probably because as a child I saw them on farms of relatives.  This tree was here when we bought the property.

autumncolorsjThe best view is from the back porch.  There are several ridges all around our land.  This fence is just around our house and barn to keep out cows and deer.  But everything shown in these photos is on our property.

autumncolorskA Red Oak in the side yard.  The trees in the yard are only two to ten years old.  We chose a building site on a level, raised area up from a creek because we wanted the view.  We’re so glad that we did because the creeks do rise when we get three or more inches in a day or so .

autumncolorsnThe ridge colors are more dramatic than the pictures show.

autumncolorslTo the left in the yard is a small Lacey Oak (Quercus laceyi or Quercus glaucoides).  Other common names include blue oak, canyon oak, mountain oak, smoky oak, and rock oak. Most of these common names refer to the tough conditions in central and south Texas where this species are native or are related to its blue–green foliage.

autumncolorsoThe views from inside the house let us enjoy each moment of this wonderful color.

Thank you for reading to this point and letting me share some of the reasons we love living here.  It is a privilege to live in the country after many years in the city.  Of course, there are some inconveniences, like no quick runs to a store for a forgotten item.  But that’s minor compared to the pluses.

“Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people’s drama, repeat these words: ‘Not my circus, not my monkey’” Polish proverb

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 Trees

When fall color is mentioned, Northeastern US is what comes to my mind first.  People flock there every autumn to soak in the beauty of bright oranges, reds, golds and every shade in between.  Surprisingly, we have some of that gorgeous color right here in our own backyard.  It may not be as overwhelming or long lasting, but it is inspiring.

falltrees2Prairie Flameleaf Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) along the county roads are the first sign of cooler temperatures.  Their orangish red foliage and deep red brown berries signal that winter is coming.falltreesThe trees on the ridge behind our house can change color as early as mid October or as late as mid November.  This year it was late.  In fact, we wondered if there would be any color at all.

falltreeshThe red-orange color comes from Red Oaks and the yellow-orange from Spanish Oaks.

falltrees8Awesome.

falltrees6The lighter oranges or yellow trees are Mesquites or Elms.  Live Oaks and Juniper Cedars stay green all winter and provide a sharp contrast to the other colors.

falltreeskFrom the front of the house we see mostly cedars.

falltreesiThis huge tree is an example of why Texans love their Live Oaks.  The canopies spread out and provide needed shade.

For years, the county extension agents and aborists have recommended that only native trees be planted, with a strong emphasis on oaks.

falltrees5Here is a Texas Red Oak (Quercus buckleyi) that was planted nine years ago.

Red Oaks are in the red or black oak groups.  There are only 15 species in this group.  They typically produce acorns every two years.  Spanish Oaks are also in this group.

falltreescSuch beautiful color.

falltreesbThe brilliant golden red on this particular tree lasts for a good month.  But  we have another tree that was supposed to be a Red Oak that has no color.  The leaves on it turn brown early.  I now  suspect that it is a Pin Oak.  I’ve read that when young, it’s difficult to tell the two apart, and that nurseries often mislabel them.

falltreesfIn the early 1980’s the term Oak Decline took on a ominous meaning as groves of oaks died.  Since then, Oak blight or Oak Wilt has claimed thousands of trees in Texas.  So the powers that be have been recommending diversification.  They suggest planting other types of trees, even those that aren’t native, but have adapted well.

Oaks in the White Oak family have not yet succumb to Oak wilt, so those are still recommended.  The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) in the above picture falls into that category.  Others in the white oak family that will grow here are Lacey Oak, Bur Oak, Post Oak, and Bigelow Oak.  Bigelow is known as Shin Oak locally and forms thickets that usually only grow up to 10 feet tall.

falltreesdThis is a different Chinapin Oak in our yard.  Notice that the leaves on both trees do not look like a stereotypical oak leaf.

In Texas there are 23 oaks in the white oak group.  These produce acorns annually.

falltreeseThe two Chinapins that we have are tall and skinny looking.  It has taken several years for their branches to widen and have a fuller look.  But I still recommend them.

The benefits of trees form a long list.  Their beauty in different seasons is just one that I appreciate.

“Anyone who thinks women talk too much has never sat through a six-hour Super Bowl pregame show.”      Nora Barry

That’s Odd

The biggest anomaly this year is the weather.  So far, we’ve only had three days of 100 or 100+ degrees.  It’s August!  That is so odd that everyone talks about the beautiful weather all the time.

Most areas around us have had several rains.  We have not, but there have been many cloudy days.

Nice summer, indeed.

oddSeveral times when I have gone into the shed, a lizard would be in the bottom of a bucket.  He must has have fallen from the ceiling.  I would dump him into the yard, but there he would be again the next day.  I don’t know if it was the same one or not.  If so, he’s a slow learner.

odd2One day from my kitchen window, I saw a 5 to 6 foot snake slithering across the grass and climbing into a tree.  By the time I could react and find my camera, he was already in the higher branches of a small Red Oak.

odd3I could never find his head for a photo.

odd4Just a Bull snake, I think.  I hope.

odd5Why is this scene strange?  Because it reminded me of a green idyllic meadow.  Usually, the grasses are dry like straw.  But here the yellow is wildflowers.  “Cows are in the meadow”… type photo.

odd6The purple Balloon flowers or Chinese Bell Flowers have not bloomed much this year.  Many of the ones that opened were white.  For the past eight years, they have been heavy bloomers.  Don’t know what happened.

odd7This is like one of those pictures where one’s eyes have to adjust and focus by staring to see the image.  The heads of Dill (Anethum graveolens)  are full of seeds.  Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar are supposed to feed on dill, although I have not seen them.

odd8Mowing around a flower bed of Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) brings on a flurry of rising butterflies swirling around me.  The flowers are small but obviously a favorite of Viceroys.

oddcThe compost heap behind a shed is producing vines.

The blue lid from a barrel is to cover food scraps and discourage racoons who often climb over the wire barrier.  Unfortunately, if they want to move the lid, they can.

odd9There are two different kinds of vines.  Last year we had canteloupe grow here.

oddbA Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) plant found its way here and is blooming.

oddaThis one looks like it is producing yellow summer squash.

I don’t often remember to pour water on the decaying compost.  But when I see the vines, it reminds me to do so.

odddWhy is this mule sniffing or eating a small cedar?  Don’t know.

praying mantisThis Praying Mantis appears to be in the process of molting, which they do several times during their lifetime.

snyderWhat is this plant, you ask.  This photo was taken in West Texas.  Those are actually plastic stems from an artificial plant.  Given the fact that watering is severely rationed, it seems like an interesting solution.

“A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”    Old cowboy adage