Hope for Gardeners

The old expression “Hope springs eternal” definitely defines gardeners’ attitudes.  Now as it warms up and we see a little green outside, our hope for a great spring ratchets up. (I mean ‘ratchets up’ from the old timey meaning, not the hip-hop one.)

Of course, the weeds are alive and well, but some other plants are, too.

Every year I plan to take this Texas Scarlett Quince  (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’) out.  Then it flowers for a short time, so it stays to see another day.

Because it is the first thing to bloom, it adds some much needed color.  This year its flowers were delayed due to Uri.  When did weathermen start naming winter storms?

Some Daffodils already had foliage before the storm, so those got zapped and probably won’t bloom this year.

Just appreciate those brave little souls who are flowering.

Only one daffodil in this bed made it.

Native Yarrow (Achillea millefolum) is amazing.  Millifoium means a thousand leaves.  It’s a native evergreen and is as tough as nails.  Plus, it spreads.  The flowers are white clusters on a stem above the foliage.

I wondered if the Amaryllis bulbs would survive.  Here they are standing tall.  The other little plants are either Gulf Coast Penstemon or Gomphrena.  Both are in this bed.

Just planted these Dwarf Candytufts (Iberis sempervines).  After the horrible freeze, cold hardiness is more important than ever.  The label says these are cold hardy down to minus 20.  Wow.

What a bright spot in the early spring garden.  I’ll be watching to see how it performs.

Hope you are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel where you live.  Spring, warm days, sunshine, and flowers will come.

“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”  Robert H. Schuller

Inhale Deeply and Relax

Now that the sun is shining and the days are warmer here, people want to rush outside and chop off all the dead limbs and leaves frozen by the extreme cold from two weeks ago.

But horticulturists are urging that it’s too early to do that.  It’s possible that another freeze will come later this month.  Leaving the dead parts could help protect the plants if that happens.  So, we should all just chill and not get frantic about what it looks like in our yards.

So all those plants, like this miniature Indian Hawthorne, that looks dead as a door nail might have viable branches and roots.  In a couple of weeks, use the thumbnail test to see if the branches are okay.  Scratch into a limb to see if the wood is soft and alive.

That same Indian Hawthorne last spring.

We have four of these Hawthorne and would be sad to lose them, but sometimes, we just have to accept something and move on.

Native plants, like these Oxeye Daises, fared well and are ready for spring.

It has surprised me how hardy these Gulf Coast Penstemon have been.  They spread fast and now look good after the sub zero weather.

Plants in pots naturally took a bigger hit.  Pretty sure that this Rosemary will need to be replaced.

Greenery from many bulbs were already above ground.  These Dutch Irises may actually still be able to produce blooms this spring because not all of the foliage froze.

Most Iris leaves or fans look healthy.

Nice surprise – a little Hyacinth is already blooming.  Yeah.

Even in a pot, Dianthus proves to be a winner.  Really have come to appreciate these plants.  Their colors are bright and cheery.

Ditch Daylilies looking good.

Pincushion plants have proved to be incredibly hardy.

Wild Foxglove looking good.

Artemesia looks a little sad but should recover.

I was concerned about bulbs that were planted in the fall.  But these Alliums look fine.

A native evergreen Yarrow that will have white flowers looks good as new.

Some trees, on the other hand, look dead.  This Yaupon Holly looks bad.  Time will tell how damaged the roots and trunks were.

Another casualty of being in a container is this Pittsporoum.  It didn’t seem to matter how old the plant was.

Afghan Pines (Pinus eldarica) don’t look so bad.  When we plant for our zone, and the weather suddenly turns much colder than that zone, then plants are at risk.  We consider heat and drought to be the biggest factor of a plant’s survival.

The Live Oak in the background looks bad, but we need to remember that Live Oaks naturally lose their leaves in the spring and new ones appear.

We planted these Oleanders last fall. Poor things.

One of my favorite trees because it is evergreen is Cherry Laurel.  Now the experts say that deciduous trees do better in a deep, deep freeze.  The leaves on the ends of branches died, but the leaves on the inside of the tree are green.  We’ll see if it’s system was weakened.

Rejoice that spring is almost here.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” -Helen Keller

Deep Freeze and Hearts

The winter storm we have just endured in Texas is one of those for the history books.  I’ve done a little research about temperatures in Texas.  The highest ones in the summer were 120 degrees in Monahans in 1994 and 120 degrees in Seymour in 1936.  That’s no surprise.  But the lowest in Tulia in 1899 and in Seminole in 1933 was minus 23.

But I think our minus 1 might it for this century.  At least, I hope so.

Like most of Texas, we had electric rolling blackouts.  Luckily, we stayed warm with a fireplace and lots of cover.

Only wild creatures would wander out in these temperatures.

The worst part has been no water.  The pipes have been frozen for 6 days.  Even as the snow melts and the temperatures are rising, we still have no water.  My husband has brought in snow to melt in order to flush commodes.

The hardships of winter.  I truly sympathize with northerners who put up with this every year.

Continuing with the Valentine hearts theme, February reminds us what love means.  It is caring more about the other person than yourself.

Am I the only one who loves the smell of Rosemary?  I consider it romantic.  Also, it’s a great herb to use in roasted vegetables.

“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”  Marilyn Monroe

Today the heart shape is widely used as a symbol of love.  Remember exchanging valentines in grade school?  And the teasing?

Heart with sedge.  This Sedge was planted and is not the invasive kind.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”   Oscar Wilde.

Old fashioned Geranium.

Obviously, this Bleeding Hearts is not in my garden.  Our soil is too alkaline.  I did try one in a pot years ago.  I think our heat got to it.

Anyway, it’s a perfect heart shape.

“Roses are red…”  Nope.  These are steel, made by my niece, who is a welder.  They’re unique and heavy.

Stay warm.  This month is turning out to be a lollapalooza.

“Ninety percent of being married is just shouting ‘what’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Fresh Snow & Fresh Start

The last time snow fell here was in January, 2016.  Thursday’s snow was a delightful surprise.  On New Year’s Day we awoke to white as far as the eye could see.

Pictures taken from the front porch include snow outlined branches of the Pisache and Crepe Myrtle trees.

Every year this Red Oak holds on to its leaves longer any other tree we have.

A Chinkapin Oak and a pot of spiky Rosemary make a nice tableau.

To the right is a Privet bush and a Maple.

Now to the backyard.  One of characteristics of Live Oaks is how they spread out wide and the branches dip towards the ground.  Very lovely wearing white.

Cherry Laurel and to the left, climbing roses.

Snow frames a bare Texas Ash and the redwood pergola.

Yaupon Holly and to the right, a Red Oak.

Closer view of bench and Red Oak

1890’s conestoga wagon is a reminder of the harsh life of the settlers headed west.

Thanks to these deer for posing.

Even the native Junipers, aka cedars, look pretty.  The real problem with Junipers is how rapidly they multiple.

Snow covered landscape is so pretty and reminds me of a fresh start this new year.  Good riddance to 2020.  Looking forward to new opportunities and hopefully, an end to isolation.

“The future lies before you, like a field of fallen snow; be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”  unknown

Winter in Reality

Most years we don’t have any winter weather.  There’s a few days of freezing temperatures, but no precipitation to create a wintery scene.

So sometimes we help Mother Nature along.  This was a time when it was below freezing and we forgot to turn off the sprinkler system in the flower beds.

With the sprinkler head on the other side of this trellis, a different view shows up.

Same flower bed and icicles hang from a birdhouse.

Another time it rained during the night and it was so cold that the moisture froze on plants and branches.  Henry Duelberg Salvia soaked up the water making very thick ice on the small branches.

The ice makes for a dramatic beauty.

I guess people who live where winter is severe and common aren’t as enamored with these scenes as we are.

Ice on a Chinese Pistache looks lacy, especially with the green of a Live Oak framing it in the background.

Shrubs that I can’t identify at this point.  A different Live Oak provides the backdrop.

The Live Oak and shrubs taken from the back porch.

Evergreen Cherry Laurel sags under the weight of ice. In the background, the ridge looks like someone shook some powdered sugar over the trees.

Up close to the Cherry Laurel.

Branches from another Chinese Pistache draping in front of a metal pergola.

A Yaupon Holly.

Texas Kidney Bush (Eysenhardtia texana) gets its name from the fact that Indians and settlers used the beans in the pods as treatment for kidney problems.

A rose hip encased in ice.

Our winter, if we have one, usually occurs in January.  Ice is more common than snow, and it is hazardous to travel on icy roads.  Crews usually cover the highways with sand or tiny gravel.  But the backroads are not treated, so we usually stay home until it melts.

“If I’m walking on thin ice, I might as well dance my way across.”  Mercedes Lackey

Gray with a Hint of Silver

One landscaping trend is to use very few colors.  Some people prefer a very muted palette and consider it calming.  My preference is for lots of color.  But I do like some neutral plants in the mix.

Prairie Sage is a perennial that doesn’t bloom.

The color is an even gray.  The branches are a little brittle but don’t break in the wind.

But even when I used grays, I like to have a little punch near it.

Dusty Miller is an old faithful that has been used for years by our ancestors.

The softness of the foliage makes it a very touchable plant.  It needs full sun but can take some shade part of the day.  Here in Zone 8 it is a perennial, but in lower zones the winter cold kills it.

This Artemisia Powis Castle (Artemisia arborescens ‘Powis Castle’) has been in this container for years.  They tend to be evergreen.

As soft as soft can be and a slight soothing scent.

Planted in the ground, Artemisia just goes crazy.  It has pretty much taken over this flower.  I have to keep trimming it back because part of the bed is planted with roses and other flowering plants.  Growing low to the ground, the branches root and spread.

Texas Purple Sage or  “cenizo” (Leucophyllum frutescens)  is very popular in Central Texas.  It is beautiful when purple blooms appear.  However, that’s only after a rain, which happens seldom here.  It can get thin without enough water.

It is not a sage or a salvia, but is in the figwort family.  A nature to Texas and northern Mexico, it is drought tolerant.  Not my favorite, but somehow I feel obligated to have this native.

Of course, there are other choices for gray in the yard, such as Globe Mallow and Gray Santolina.  Aren’t you glad you get to pick the colors or lack of for your own space?

“Gray hair is a blessing.  Ask any bald man.”  unknown

Glorious Autumn Days

Whenever perfect autumn days comes to mind, these recent days fit the bill.  The weather has been mild, the skies blue with some puffy clouds and some colorful flowers in the yard.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) flowers hang gracefully on long, draping branches.

Roses are still blooming, like this Princess Alexandra of Kent, with an especially large flower as a last hurrah.

Bushes are rejuvenated with flowers.  Bright orange flowers of Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) against the soft, curly leaves make a striking combination.

Pollinators have been buzzing around busily getting their fill.

All kinds of butterflies have been flitting from flower to flower.  Most are so fast, it’s hard to snap a pix.  But this Sulfur lingered on a Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) blossom soaking up the sunshine and the nectar.

Purple flowers on a Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) and a few yellow Yarrows add some bright color.  The Blue Potato Bush is zone 8 – 11.  Mine is in a pot and was left out last winter and survived.

A little pop of red berries on a native vine glows in the late autumn sun.

What gems these days have been, so we savor them while they last.

“Life becomes more meaningful when you realize the simple fact that you’ll never get the same moment twice.”  unknown

Good Repeats

With so many flowers continuing to bloom, this autumn has been like a second spring.  As crazy as it sounds, cool weather in autumn is not the norm here.  It’s been a special treat this year.

The purchase of two small plants in 4″ pots made about 10 years ago has turned out to be one of my best buys.  Bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) is always a welcome sight.  Since it’s an annual that reseeds freely, large groups of it show up each spring.

A Hardy Hibiscus that was bought about 10 years ago at a garden club plant sale has proved to be a boon.  Anything with the word “hardy” (meaning cold hardy for our area) in its name can withstand our dry and hot summer, as well as our sometimes extreme cold periods.

This Oxalis or Shamrock plant has been in this same pot for about eight years.  By the end of summer, the leaves are bedraggled, but the flowers look fresh.

This Coral Honeysuckle bush (Lonicera sempervirens L.) is only three years old.   It doesn’t look as well as it did in the spring, but there are flowers for the pollinators.  Another great performer.

The plant everyone loves to complain about is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex).  It’s an aggressive spreader.  But if there’s room for it, it is hardy to the extreme and will become an old standby .  This grouping started out as one single cutting that I took twenty years ago.

Personally, I love the color of the flowers.  They are not shy about blooming.  So it has its pluses.  Mexican Petunias are native to Mexico and further south.

“Calories are tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.”  unknown

Something Old, Something New…

Something old                                                                                                                      something new                                                                                                                    something borrowed                                                                                                            something blue                                                                                                              and a sixpence in her shoe

This expression is as old as the hills, but the article in St. James Magazine in 1873 was the first known printed version.  This advice was to brides and what they should add to their attire on their wedding day.

Although the meaning of these items differs according to how far back they can be traced, these are the ones given in 1873:  Something old –  honor family and tradition; something new –  couple’s future;  something borrowed – happiness;  something blue -purity and love;  and sixpence – wish for prosperity and wealth.What does a wedding ditty have to do with gardening?  Just my way of trying to do something different.

There are lots of plants I could have chosen for “something old” but this Golden Lead Ball Tree (Leguminosae Leucaena retusa) is blooming now and has been in our yard for about 10 years.   The scruffy, twisted appearance of this small tree seems appropriate for its native environment – the wild, windy barren land of West Texas.

Right now its covered with dozens of seed pods.  They burst and drop the seeds.  However, there have been no new trees as a result.  Seeds must need scarification to germinate.

The beauty of this small multiple trunk tree shows up in the round, fuzzy bright yellow balls that appear from spring to fall depending on rain and temperature.

Something new is this gorgeous Toad Lily (Tricyrtis).  It’s a native to several countries in Asia; it prefers slightly shady and acidic conditions.  Therefore, I keep mine in a pot with loose, rich soil.

I bought it two to three years ago.  It finally bloomed.  Hooray.

This picture from the internet shows the flower structure a little better than my picture.

Something borrowed:  Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum x ‘Herbstfreude) .  Years and years ago, I took a cutting from one of my mother’s plants.  So I guess I “borrowed” it.

This sedum blooms in the fall with these wonderful puffy clusters of pink star-shaped flowers.  This succulent is winter hardy, even in a container.  Mine are in bright, indirect light.

Yes.  I know I’m stretching my analogy, but here is my something blue.  Or maybe bluish.  Masses of this Aster can be seen in many autumn landscapes because it needs to be divided every 3 – 5 years.  Therefore, it’s a great pass-a-long plant.

Blue flowers are hard to find, but here’s a true blue from this internet picture of a Texas Bluebonnet.  Super Wow!

And a sixpence in her shoe…  Sixpence was used in England from 1551 – 1967.  So maybe a penny in her shoe.  An article addressing this old rhyme and converting it for modern day brides is interesting.

Just tried to combine two passions of mine – history and plants.  Sorry for all the internet pictures.  That’s different from my usual blogs.

Thanks for bearing with me.  Hope you’re getting to enjoy some of the things you enjoy.

“History is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul.”  Lord Acton

Ain’t Autumn Grand

Cool temps in autumn don’t bring the orange and yellow of fall foliage here, but they do bring the bright colors of flowers.  Roses rebloom, other flowers increase in number, and some newcomers shine this time of the year.

Intricate flowers of the Purple Passion Vine or Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) deserve a close inspection to see their uniqueness and beauty.  Zebra Longwing caterpillars and Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Notice the other little flower intruding in this space.  It’s the native Morning Glory vine, which pops up everywhere and covers any surface where it’s tendrils can cling.  This vine is an aggravating, aggressive irritant in the yard.  Okay, it’s quaint growing on barbed wire out in the field, but mostly it grows in cultivated areas.

Cooler weather brings flowers galore on Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus-arboreus-var-drummondii).  What a wonderful Texas native perennial with its bright red unusual flowers and hardy in clay, rocky soil.  Glorious.

After other sunflowers have shriveled up, Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) wave their bright yellow faces in the air.  I don’t know if this actually grows in swampy areas, but it’s very drought tolerant here in our clay soil.

Jackmanii Clematis (Clematis x jackmani) is named after an English nurseryman who introduced this cultivar in 1862.  Great performer here in dry upper Central Texas.

Last year a small bush with spiky stems appeared in this bed.  I thought it was interesting and decided to leave it.  Boy, am I glad I did.

That little bush grew up into this Gayfeather.  This is not the type of Gayfeather seen in the fields in this area.  The local Gayfeather is one stem standing in a group of other single stems.  So I’m not sure of its variety or how it got here.

Bees are enjoying it.

A migrating Monarch stopped by for a snack.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this blog.  Hope you’re having a wonderful fall.

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building.”   Bono