Storybook Sculptures

Abilene, Texas, calls itself Storybook Capital of the World.  Scattered around the downtown area are sculptures of characters from children’s books as well as various other sculptures.

I’m starting with my least favorite:  Dino Bob from the book Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.

Never heard of this book.

The Man in the Moon is represented by a moon up on a tall pole.

Also, unknown to me.  Don’t give up.  It gets better.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stands outside the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature building.

Everman Park, beside the renovated train depot, contains the Dr. Seuss Sculptures.  A nice job of landscaping this area uses hardy Texas plants, like the New Gold Lantana in the picture.  This lantana is a hybrid and makes a 6 to 8 foot ground cover.

Although this isn’t Dr. Seuss, it’s at the park entrance.  Santa Calls sculpture depicts three children who travel to the North Pole.  Santa sent a flying machine called Yuletide Flyer.The beloved Cat in the Hat turns a rainy day into unexpected fun for children.

Some  small Magnolia trees had blossoms.  It’s unusual to see Magnolias in Central Texas, but this is probably a Little Gem Magnolia, which is a late bloomer, smaller than most Magnolias, and survives in zones 5 – 9.

The Lorax speaks for the trees and warns of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.

Yurtle the Turtle, who claims to be the king of the pond, climbs on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon.  A good message to us all not to feel more important than others.

In spite of derogatory remarks in the news recently about Dr. Seuss, I think he had an important role.  He got many kids interested in reading and learning and did it in an extremely fun way.

The Grinch tries to sabotage Christmas in Whoville.

Another small Magnolia surrounded by Knockout Roses, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and a Boxwood hedge.  The roses may be Drift Roses, which are a type of Knockouts.

Russian Sage is a good choice for arid areas.  It has a lovely scent and is hardy.  It does spread, so these will become overcrowded at some point.

Sam, I am, encourages everyone to try Green Eggs and Ham.

In the second book to feature Horton, Horton Hears a Who, he once again becomes the protector of a helpless creature.  A small piece of dust that talks to Horton asks for help.  Even though he is ridiculed and harassed by the other animals, Horton states that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. SeussSave

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tall, Slender, and Elegant

Guess we all wish that title described us.  But, in this case, that means plants, not people.

Tall, of course, can be relative.   Larkspurs bloom on tall stems, as do Cannas, and the flowers of Red Yucca, so I’m including them.  Canna lilies, although not true lilies, grow from rhizomes and are faithful to return each spring.  Because they multiply, they are usually a pass-a-long plant.

One great thing about re-blooming Iris is that it flowers at unexpected times.

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) are a wonderful spring blooming annual, if you’re not picky about where it pops up in years to come.  They are generous re-seeders.

I had never considering planting their seeds until I saw them in a friend’s yard.  She generously shared some seeds; so I’ve enjoyed them ever since no matter where they appear.

Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba”)  is a small flowering tree with multiple trunks.  These tend to grow tall and remain slender.  The flowers look like lovely small orchids.

Desert Willows are native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Texas.

The thin stems of (Gaura Llindheimeri) keep growing taller throughout the hot months of summer until they hide whatever is behind them.  So I should have planted them in their own space, but I didn’t.

As they sway in the breeze, they are reminiscent of butterflies.  Thus a common name for them is Twirling Butterflies.

I also have a Pink Gaura which has reappeared after several years of being absent.  Gaura roots seem to endure very well.  They could be considered a bully, but I like them, anyway.

After my experience with Hollyhocks and Rust disease, I was undecided whether or not to dig up this one that came from some remaining roots.  After checking it over and keeping a close watch on it, it has survived disease-free and has produced beautiful flowers.  But it has been a rather dry spring.  If and when we get lots of rain, the disease will probably reappear.

Every year I rave about Henry Duelberg Saliva (Salvia farinacea).  I think it should be a staple that is used more often in zones 7b – 10a.

The white Augusta Duelberg Salvia (wife of Henry) is a companion that usually comes up in a bed of Henry Duelberg Salvia.  Don’t know how that works botanically.

In this picture, the Russian Sage is the tall slender beauty.  In front of it is Salvia Greggi and behind it is a huge Earthkind® rose bush on the left and Knockouts® on the right.

The hardiness and aroma of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) makes it a worthwhile plant, especially for arid areas.  It is native to the steppes, which are grassy plains, of southwestern and central Asia, so the name is appropriate.

Bee Balm or Monarda might not be considered elegant by some some people, but it’s a notable plant to attract pollinators.  Plus, I think it’s pretty, if it can be staked so that it won’t flop over.  I chose to put a cage around it to hold it up.

Gladiolus often need staking, but Atom Gladiola is a shorter version that doesn’t lean over too much.

These bulbs were ordered two or three years ago from Old House Gardens, which specializes in heirloom bulbs.

Although many of Old House Garden bulbs date back to the 1700’s, this particular bulb was hybridized in 1946.

The old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is true to many things, including plants.  So choose what plants you think fall into the category of tall, slender, and elegant.

“When life gives you a rainy day, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles.”  unknown

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tin Man Wind Chime

This project has been on my mind since last October when I saw a tin man hanging in a tree at the Garden of Eden.  Someone in my house considers it a hair brained idea.  Wonder who?

The one part that I thought that I could not obtain was the large can for the body.  Then I was helping with a meal at church where several industrial size cans of vegetables were opened, and voila, I had what I needed.  If it’s available, a larger can might be better.

This is my finished product.  The size of cans I used:

Spacer can on top of head to hold up funnel:  8 ounce (tomato sauce)
Head:  29 ounce  (fruit)
Body:  6 lbs. 10 ounce (vegetables)
Upper arm:  21 ounce (pie filling)
Lower arm: 15 ounce ((fruit)
Hand: lid
Upper leg:  28 ounce (beans)                                                                                          Lower leg:  15 ounce (fruit)                                                                                                  Feet: 3.75 ounce (Sardines)  We don’t eat sardines, but they are good food for Crape Myrtles.

The metal funnel was ordered from Amazon.  I searched for the lowest price on several sites.  This one was just over $7 with free shipping.

Cotton rope (probably 1/2″) to hang tin man.

Tools:  drill used for holes in cans, 17 gauge galvanized wire to tie cans together, wire cutters and needle nose pliers to reach into cans and bend wire, small washers to keep wire in place.

Also, need tin snips to cut nose.  We used part of an old hose to fit over a tree branch to keep the rope from fraying.

Now I will attempt to explain the construction.

First, drill holes in cans.  Sometimes I had to do some back tracking because my plan didn’t work.  For instance, in this body can, the wire seen here was to hang both legs.  That didn’t work out.  An individual wire was better for each leg.  So another hole had to be drilled on each side in the groove beside where the wire pictured goes into the can.

Put facial features on.  Drill holes needed for eyes, nose, and mouth.  I used metal buttons for the eyes and a pop top can lid for the nose.  Cut the lid in a somewhat triangular shape with tin snips and bend with the needle nose pliers.

Just twist the wires together on the inside of the can to hold each feature in place.

For the mouth I used some old insulated copper wire.  That was just bent flat on the inside.

Another piece of wire was used to hold bottom of nose in place.

After finishing the face can, rope was threaded down into the funnel.  After slipping on a washer, tie a knot in the rope.  I then hooked a wire into the washer and bent it and twisted it.

That wire was long enough to go through the hole in the spacer can and be tied off in the head can.

Then another wire went across the top of the head can and into holes and pulled through.

At first, I used the bottom part of artificial flowers instead of washers.  Either one will work.  This shows the head can with the long wires that will go into the body and tied off.

Next prepare arms that will be attached to body.  Note the two holes on top of the arms.  The wire will come up and over and back into can.

This drawing also shows how the arms are constructed.  It is better to start with the bottom can first and go up through the top of the arm and put the wire back down into that can.  Then attach the hand with a lid that fits inside that bottom can.

I tried going from top to bottom first, but it was impossible to tie off the wire in the smaller can at the bottom.

The legs are made the same way as the arms.

Attach feet on both sides of the bottom can.  Holes were drilled into bottom of shoes so that rain water will drain out.

We hung the tin man in a Hackberry because it was at the back of the yard away from bedroom windows.  If it rattles a lot, then it wouldn’t disturb anyone’s sleep.  It won’t matter if some smaller branches are broken.  Hackberries are considered trash trees by some people, but I think it is a great shade tree.

Finally, we attached a rope from the body to another branch to keep it steady and always facing the same direction.

If anyone decides to make a tin man, it is easier to have another person help at some stages of putting it together, like holding assembled pieces still as others are added.

Hope this is not confusing but helpful.

“Common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in every everyone’s yard.” unknown

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Wild and Beautiful

In the pastures and along the roads, nature is showing its color.

It’s easy to walk right past Algarita (Berberis trifoliolata) because it’s flowers and berries are so small.

When you step up close, the scent of the yellow flowers, the patterns of the crisscross  branches, and the shape of the leaves become noticeable.  But, beware, it is prickly.

The red berries, which are edible and are used for jelly, are just starting to form.  Usually, it blooms from February to April.

To see many of the flowers this time of the year, one must look down.  The flowers of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) are tiny:  about 1/2″ to 3/4″ across.  Everyone I spotted had a bug on it.

There are two varieties of Rain Lilies in Texas.  The ones that bloom in the spring are Cooperia pedunculata and have shorter floral tubes.

Water from one of the tanks is still spilling over even though we haven’t had any significant amounts of rain recently.

The bright yellow of the Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is the only reason one would notice this small plant.  All these small flowers can easily be trampled without seeing them.

Fringed Puccoon was used by the native tribes and early settlers to make dye from the roots.  The roots also has medicinal properties.  The Blackfeet people burned the dried leaves and flowers as an incense.

My old pals, Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) are back.  I love these pretty little flowers that are so plentiful.

Driving between Goldthwaite and San Saba, I just had to stop to snap a picture of  this massive field of bright yellow.  This photo only shows about one third of the field.

I think the plants are Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum Rusosum).  Although the solid yellow fields are pretty, the plants are extremely invasive and unwanted.

Not sure, but think this is a native blackberry bush that just showed up outside our gate.

Native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) seem to be springing up everywhere.

To see their beauty, get up close enough to hear all the bees.

And to see the two different shades of pink  that make up their blossoms.

Nature is offering the first colors and beauty this time of the year.

“Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes peace is better than being right.” unknown author

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Early Bird Blooms

Seesawing temperatures has confused us all.  Each day is a surprise.  There is always a possibility of a freeze as late as the middle of April hanging over our heads.  Several years ago on Easter, snow covered the blooming Bluebonnets.

I’ve been working to get plants cut back or pruned and debris picked up.  This is the first time this Canyon Creek Abelia (Abelia x ‘Canyon Creek’) has been visible since this time last year.  The Guara grew up in front of it and had grown up under it.  So we dug that up and moved it.

The coppery color of the leaves is very pretty.  Later, small white flowers will cover its branches.

Some of the roses are blooming like crazy.  I didn’t get this Knock-Out bush pruned back.  I concentrated on tea roses because it is more critical to get them cut in February.

The bushes are way too tall and wide, but they can be trimmed anytime.

This Earth-Kind bush is about eight feet tall.  Too tall for me to trim easily.

The yellow flowers of this Knock Out Rose fade to a pale, almost white, before they die.

The Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) is all dressed up for spring.  Interestingly, it is in the rose family and is not related to other Laurels.

It is totally covered with clusters of off white flowers.

The whole tree is abuzz with bees.  The black berries attract birds, but some fall to the ground.  In some places people complain that too many sprouts grow from them.  Not a problem here with the hard packed ground.

Warnings are given about how poisonous the leaves and fruit are.  They contain cyanide.

It’s a relatively fast grower.  This one is 12 years old and has been worry free and is evergreen.  Hooray.

Bridal Wreath Spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia) is starting to bloom.

Aptly named, it will be completely covered with flowers in a couple of weeks.

Lots of dark skies with promises of rain that don’t pan out.  Much patience is required while waiting for spring rains.

The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus meuhlenbergii)  is a Texas SuperStar tree with leaves that are more elongated than most oaks.  It is in the white oak family, which means it is less susceptible to oak wilt disease.

Pretty small Hyacinths blooms carry a strong scent.

The Gray Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea incana) is sporting its first flowers.  Trimming it back can be done after some other things are done.  Also, needs weeding.  This Texas native’s bright orange cupped flowers stand out against its silvery gray foliage.  Very hardy.

Busy time in the yard.  Pruning is just about finished.  Weeding is an ongoing task.  But lovely flowers are reward enough.

“Being defeated is often only a temporary condition.  Giving up is what makes it permanent.”  Marilyn Vos Savant

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Prickly Plants

Last Saturday we attended a Native Plant Society of Texas Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Center in Austin.  There were some interesting speakers and one that read her speech.  Boring.

Afterwards, we strolled the gardens even it’s still early for many plants to be growing.

It is the season for the Texas Mountain Laurel (Dermatophyllum secundiflorum) to display their clusters of purple flowers that smell strongly of grape kool-aid.

There were also a few Giant Spiderworts (Tadescantia gigantea) already blooming.

Some sculptures from stone and thick glass were fascinating.

Nice use of stock tanks.

Another featured sculpture.  I’m not sure if these are permanent or not.

The stone is limestone, which contains lots of shells.

Muhlies are currently poplular as landscape plants.  The genus of this plant is named for a German Lutheran minister, Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, who lived in Pennsylvania in the late 18th century and early 19th century.  He was also a botanist, chemist, and mineralogist.

This one is Pine Muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia Forn. ex Hemsl).

The Texas Persimmon or Mexican Persimmon (Diospyros texana scheele) is a small multi-branched tree that usually grows to about 15 feet tall.  The orange fruit turns to black when ripe.  Before it ripens, the fruit is so tart that it makes one’s mouth pucker.
Childhood memories of eating orange persimmons on my uncle’s farm makes me avoid them altogether now.

Lovely.

Cholla Cactus (Cylindropuntia imbricata) or Tree Cholla or Walking Stick Cholla grows in the hot deserts of West Texas or high in the Colorado mountains.

As a native Texan raised in West Texas where sharp, pointed, prickly plants are common, it is not my preferred type of plant.  But the violet flowers on these are bright and very pretty.
Green Sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum) is another pokey plant.  Interestingly, it is used to produce an alcoholic drink called sotol.

Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa) is in the rose family.  How crazy is that.  It has white flowers and silvery or pink puffs of fruit heads that are said to resemble an Apache headdress.

I know that some people really love these plants.  There are many of these rustic plants growing out in the fields here, so we can enjoy them as we take walks.  But in my yard, I love flowers and more tame looking plants.

Thanks for taking the time to ready my blog.

“No one was ever named ‘Hero’ for following the crowd.  Heroes set their own course.”  Johnathan Lockwood Huie

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Pop of Red

Nothing like bright red in winter to brighten the landscape.

This Possumhaw holly (Llex decidua) tree has finally reached an age where it produces lots of berries, and they are a larger size than the past two years.  A US native, it grows wild where is enough moisture.

Female plants bear fruit and need a male plant near by.  We only have the one Possumhaw, so I can’t explain why it produces berries.  But I’m glad it does.

Reportedly consistently moist fertile soil is needed.  Not here.  Guess this is one tough little tree.

This gnarly, thorny Texas Scarlett Quince (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’)    grows close to the ground making it impossible to clear out dead leaves and weeds from under it.  Scratched and bleeding arms are the results.

this plant’s only saving grace is that it provides the first color of the year and that it can be seen from the main area of the house.

Other varieties of Flowering Quince grow upright and have more flowers on them.  I chose the Texas native for its hardiness.  If I were buying again, I would go for pretty.

A stunning early morning sunrise is a great way to start the day.

This picture was taken in late fall but is appropriate for the pop of color theme.  Cardinals are active here in the winter.  With all their darting up/down, it looks like they’re avoiding gun fire.  It’s rare that I have a chance to get a pix.

These two Amaryllis were planted at the same time.  Crazy that the one on the left has no flowers and the one on the right, no foliage.

I don’t buy Amaryllis for myself but love and enjoy them as gifts.  I put them in tall vases to help them stay upright.  I’ll probably move this one to a taller vase so the stem won’t have to be staked.

Can’t get much redder or brighter in color than this.

A sunrise with a buttermilk sky makes me smile.

“When red-headed people are above a certain social grade, their hair is auburn.”  Mark Twain

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Winter Silhouettes and More

Winter seems barren and blab, but beauty in forms and shapes stand out.

I’ve always liked the bones of this bush.  It’s tall, about 6 feet, and I still don’t know what it is.  It doesn’t flower.  Its best traits are hardiness and the dark colors of its leaves.  Someday I hope to identify it.

The dried sepals of the flowers left on the branches of Althea or Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) look almost like blossoms themselves.

Althea is one of the most reliable flowering bushes for our area.  Clay and caliche don’t phase them.  I love their hibiscus looking flowers with lavender colors.

Strands of Eve’s Necklace (Sophora affinis) hang on looking like black beads.  They’re not as shiny as when the tree is leafed out.  Other names include Texas Sophora, Pink Sophora, and Necklace Tree.

This little tree likes alkaline soil and limestone, so it’s perfect of our land.

The tree is three years old, and these are the first seed pods.  In spring pink flowers hang in small wisteria-like clusters.

Branches of oaks have interesting shapes.   Chinapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) has lots of curves.

Blue sky frames Chinese Pistasho or Chinese Pistashe (Pistacia chinensis) with its clusters of tiny berries and long thin leaves.  This tree is in the cashew family and is native to China.

Even though it isn’t native here, it is a Texas SuperStar plant because it does well in poor soil and doesn’t require lots of water.  As a young tree, it can look misshapen, but becomes a wonderful tree with fall color.  Amen to that.

As I was walking around taking pictures on a crisp, cold morning, this Northern Mockingbird was hunkered down in a large Rose of Sharon.  His feathers were puffed up for warmth, so he seemed cozy and didn’t want to leave, which made this picture possible.

As I came around behind the bushes later, he was still there.  Mockingbirds, the Texas state bird, are very common around here.

During winter, all the weeds and clutter around plants show up.  To the right of the sun dial, a Purple Sage or Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) is a voluntary plant.  Several years ago, one was growing about ten feet from this spot, so maybe that’s its origin.

Lots to be cleaned up.  Tires me out to think about it.

The wide open sky is always beautiful.

Love a buttermilk sky.  They are fairly rare here.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men
who walked through the huts comforting others,
giving away their last piece of bread…
They offer sufficient proof that everything
can be taken from a man but one thing:
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,
to choose one’s own way.
– Viktor E. Frankl

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Texas Independence

Washington on the Brazos is the place where Texans declared their independence from Mexico.  We visited this site when we were in nearby Brenham last November.

A replica of the original building gives a feel for the gathering of delegates.

While settlers were escaping from Santa Anna’s army and the battle at the Alamo was raging, men gathered to decide the fate of their homes and lives.  The convention lasted for 17 days; the representatives wrote a new constitution and organized an interim government as they created the Republic of Texas.

“Fellow-Citizens of Texas: The enemy are upon us. A strong force surrounds the walls of the Alamo, and threaten that garrison with the sword…Now is the day, and now is the hour, when Texas expects every man to do his duty. Let us show ourselves worthy to be free and we shall be free.”
Henry Smith, Washington, TX – March 2, 1836

 

Nearby is a living history farm.  A display was set up at the ticket booth entrance. The green Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is not an edible fruit, in my opinion.  I’ve only known them as Horse Apples.

Some sprigs of purple heart add a little color.

On the same table is a basket of gourds.  These were used for drinking cups, ladles, and other vessels.

This fence style was probably brought to Texas with the early settlers from other states that came with Stephen Austin.

This dogtrot or dog run house has all the characteristics that define it.  A wide open space provided a way for wind to blow through to cool the house in the hot summers.  Two fireplaces heated the two rooms on each side in the winter.

The house belonged to Dr. Anson Jones, the first president of the new republic.  It was built in 1844 and was moved to this location in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration.

The Jones family lived in the house when it was on a farm in Brazoria.  He, his wife, their four children, his wife’s four half-sisters, and slaves lived on the farm.

Today this farm represents the lifestyle of the early settlers.

The master bedroom is decorated to look like it would have in those times.

A baby bed is set up beside the bed.

And a drawer at the end of the bed could sleep another young child or be used as storage.

On the fireplace mantle is a picture of Dr. Jones.  Not sure why it is covered with cheese cloth.

The second bedroom shows a chamber pot under the bed.

Other indoor conveniences include toiletry items and a wash basin.

The outside kitchen prevented the risks from cooking fires and kept heat in the summer away from the house.

The cook was preparing sweet potatoes for lunch.

The sweltering heat of summer and the bitter cold of always comes to my mind when I see how the pioneers lived.  Then I remember that millions of people today live in worse conditions.

How blessed we are to live in this time and in this place.

“The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.”  Ovid

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save