Something Different

Gardeners are attracted to the beauty of nature.  Sometimes, unique plants bring fascination.  For me, often, that translates to tropical plants that cannot live through our winters.

But some plants with unusual forms do very well here.  Like this Ornamental Onion that has not only survived but spread.

Can’t even remember where I got this.

These zany looking flowers are actually their reproduction method.  Each cluster is made up of tiny bulblets that fall to the ground and become new plants.

I really don’t know if these are edible or not.  A speaker talking about foraying for wild plants said that a person can eat anything once.  But, that sounds like dangerous advice to me.

This Rainbow’s End (cv. SAValife) own root miniature is different because its roses are all different colors all at the same time.

Black Diamond Crape Myrtles came on the market a few years ago.  Even Walmart carries them.

The ones I’ve seen in bloom have white blossoms.  This one is Black Diamond Red Hot, which is supposed to have hot red flowers.

A local nursery was selling tropical Popcorn Cassia (Cassia didymobotrya), which is supposed to smell like popcorn.

The leaves look like a plant that would do well here, but it is zoned for 14 to 15.  This means that it will freeze below 40 or 50 degrees.  I should have researched before buying it.

One of my biases is that nurseries sell plants that will not last in their area so customers will buy something else next year.  Can’t believe that I fall into that trap over and over.

“Oh no.  You did it again.”

Swamp Sunflower is a misnomer for this plant.  It grows very well in our drier soil.  The tiny forest is about 15 inches tall now.

They grow tall – about 8 to 9 ft. before flowering with small sunflowers that bloom in late summer.

“Forget trying to walk a mile in my shoes.  Try spending a day wandering around in my mind.  Now, that will give you something to worry about.”  unknown

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San Antonio Gardens, Part II

The hot summers and mild winters of San Antonio make it possible to grow tropical plants there.

sanaI fell in love with the Potterweeds (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).  This is a red one.  It is supposed to be drought tolerant and grow like a weed.

sana1While standing in front of this bush for several minutes, I saw several different kinds of butterflies.  I think the one on the left is a Gulf Fritillary and the one on the right, a Common Mestra

sana3This Angelonia or Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) is an annual with upright flower spikes that resemble miniature snapdragons.

Only Angelonia from the Serena series can be grown from seed.

sana4Don’t recognize this plant.

sana5Bat-faced Cuphea (Cuphea llavea) gets it name from the dark area on the tip of the flower.  It takes a good imagination to see a bat face there.sanaccI tried to get a picture that would show the face, but I don’t see it.

They are native to Mexico and Central America and are only perennials in zone 10 and higher.sana6In this part of the garden, there are four square beds that form a large square with walkways in between.  Each square has the large tropical plant that probably stands 8 or 9 feet tall with shorter flowering bushes surrounding it.  The tall plants look like giant cannas, but they are probably something more exotic.  And none of them had flowers.

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sana7This Blue Potterweed has a Praying Mantis posing for a picture.

sana8Tall trees provide nice shady nooks.  The lady in red is one of several volunteer Master Gardeners working in the gardens that morning.

sana9Our group is observing huge Crape Myrtles and listening to the extension agent provide information.

sanajEasy to recognize Lantana is a good old reliable in Texas.  This particular one might be ‘Dallas Red’.

The unusual butterfly is an Orange Skipperling.

sanajjHardy Hibiscus do well in our area, also.

sanajjjWish I knew the name – no label.  In the Shrimp Plant family?

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sanakkkYellow Jabobinia or Brazilian Plume (Justicia aurea) grows in light to full shade in zones 8b and higher.

sanalFrustrating when botanical gardens don’t have everything labeled.

sanallVariegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) is an annual except in zone 11 and further south.

sanalllIt is a non-bloomer that loves heat and the sun.

sanamLike the light play through the Elephant Ears, which are native to Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

sanammsanammmThe horticulturist at this botanical gardens must also love Potterweed, since they use it so much.  Here it is with Potato Vine.

A visit to a lush tropical garden is a treat.  Even though it doesn’t translate into useful information for my garden, it’s fun to see what other parts of the world grow.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

Finally…

…rain, rain, rain and a lot of it for this area in August.  Hooray.  Week before last was an inch and over six inches this past week.  Lower temps and water – what a blessing.

finallyTo see raindrops on plants is awesome.  Everything, including this Purple Heart, needed some relief.

finally1And maybe the moisture will chase away the grasshoppers.

finally2…some beads on the Eve’s Necklace tree (Sophora affinis) after a 3 year wait.  Maybe all this extra water will end the choleric leaf condition.

finally3… the Bougainvilla is blooming.  On the advice of a friend, I tried plant food for Camellias to prod the plant to flower.  That filled the branches with healthy looking leaves but no flowers.  Then, by chance, I noticed food specifically for Bougainvillas at a big box store.

It took a couple of weeks before I saw results.  But suddenly, boom, the blooms appeared.

finally4Love the neon color.

finally6…I bought a pepper plant with purple leaves.  A well known horticulturist in Texas stated that he thought we should only have plants with green leaves, as nature intended.  But I decided that I liked the variety of colors available.

finally7No peppers yet but adds interest.

finally5… a small native Rio Grande Copper Lily (Habranthus tubishpathus (L’Her.) Traub) that I planted years ago has started blooming again.  The Mexican Feather Grass had taken over that spot, so it may have been blooming all along.  But I spotted it the other day and was pleased to see that it had survived.

finally8…a Crape Myrtle with black leaves – Black Diamond Red Hot.  They’ve been around for a few years but are new to my yard.  Not sure if they are as hardy as the other Crape Myrtles.

finally9…a fern that can take full sun.  Really.  I’ve tested it.  The friend that I got this from did not know what kind it is.  Internet research hasn’t found one that is an exact match.

The original I received was small.  It has grown and also put out some pups.

finallya…a motivation to always trim back the Autumn Clematis in the winter.  This is what happens when vines are full and get soaked with rain several days in a row.  Fell completely over.

finallybThe concrete holding the trellis just popped right out of the ground.

finallycA few blooms can be seen on the sides.

heatgoeson9In full bloom last year.  Lesson learned.

As a child, time seemed interminable waiting for things like Christmas to come.  Guess as an adult, we still get anxious for some things like rain to happen.

“A recent study has shown that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.”  unknown

August’s Heat

The last weekend in August is the time for the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ annual bicycle ride in Wichita Falls, Texas.   This event brings out tons of people who torture themselves on a up and down hill course in 100 plus temperatures.  I mean:  who does this?

But then, who lives in this climate?  The answer:  native Texans and many who have come to the sun belt to enjoy the wonderful winters.

augustheat4What else survives the heat?   There are actually quite a few plants that have adapted to extreme heat as well as the native plants.

This Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) is seven years old.  I like the curly, unpredictable growth habit.  However, it does not survive winter, even here, so it has to be brought in.

augustheat6That’s difficult since it has grown so large.  The spikes on the ridges are extremely sharp.  Last year a tall spike broke off.  No problem, I just planted it and now have another Elkhorn.  The white sap is poisonous, so handle with care.

augustheatIn the back to the right is an ornamental pepper plant, which has struggled this year.  It wilts between waterings, which is about three to four days apart.  It has several smaller plants that came up this year, so I probably should have taken them out of this pot.

The plant in front is Escheverua ‘Blue Curl’ which needs bright, but not direct light.  That requirement applies to most succulent plants.

augustheat2Some things are starting to look ragged at the end of summer.  Like this ten year old Oxalis.  But it’s hanging in there.

augustheat5It’s a challenge to find enough shade in our yard for plants that need it.  Above is Coleus and Purple Heart that get early sun as the sun hovers over the horizon.

augustheat3The potted Petunias have surprised me because they have lasted from spring into August.  I will definitely use some of them again next year.

augustheatbHere is a Moon Flower plant in another shady area and the pot with the new Elkhorn.

augustheataThe flowers of Moon Flower or Jimson Weed (Datura wrightii) are always a delight.

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augustheat9The metal pickup on a pole is about five feet tall.  That is a gauge for how tall the Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten.

augustheat7Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele) is not a consistent bloomer, but I enjoy it when flowers appear.

augustheat8The flowers actually look more like a hibiscus than a rose.

augustheatdJust this year Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’)  was designated a Texas Superstar Plant.  I wondered why because we have two that are four years old, and this is the first year for them to bloom.  So I did a little research.  Although the plant label that came with them did not state this information, they do not do well in alkaline soils.  We definitely have that in spades.

augustheateThis year, I’ve poured the water on them and the blooms are gorgeous.

Crape Myrtles do so well in the whole central Texas area that I was surprised to learn that this one has different soil needs.  I certainly won’t dig them up.  But now I know they need extra water.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center just sent out an article to encourage all the gardeners in Texas who are weary of the sun and hot temps this time of the year.  It pointed out some positives to note:  dried, brown, fried flowers provide seeds for birds and next year’s crops of flowers; act as mulch and insulate the ground from the heat; dried flowers provide beauty in form; and brown is not an ugly color.  That’s a great spin for us all.

“It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”  Walter Winchell

Surviving the Heat

The unrelenting sun is taking its toll.  Some things, like the Cone Flowers, are wilting faster than usual.  This is my fault because I haven’t done a good job of watering flowerbeds this year.

I read that the heavy rains in the spring work as a detriment when the inferno of summer comes because our plants are not accustomed to going from wet soil to dry.

surviving1Potted plants, like this Kalanchoe, that have the advantage of mostly shade survive fine.  They don’t mind the heat, just the sun.

surviving9A different Kalanchoe thrives outside in the shade.

surviving7Orange Marmalade Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’) or Firecracker Flower has done surprisingly well in mostly shade.  It, too, likes the heat and humidity, but not the sun.  No humidity here, so it must not be absolutely necessary for this plant.

survivingbIt definitely is an attention getter on the front porch.  Looks goods against the pot of Dusty Miller succulent.  This pot goes into the heated shed for the winter.

survivingcThe part of the stem just below the flower is the seed pods.  Each little point contains a seed of roughly the same shape.

survivingThis Desert Rose (Adenium obesumlso) needs winter protection.  Mine only seems to bloom right after it comes out of the shed in early spring.  They are known more for their trunks that are bulbous at the bottom than their flowers.survivingaMore pot plants:  pepper plant and Boston Fern to the back left.  The Woodland Fern on the right is in the ground.

surviving5Out by a shed is a Plumbago with white flowers, a Scented Geranium, a Crepe Myrtle with black leaves and a Mexican Oregano.

surviving6Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) with pink tubular flowers.

survivingbbAn Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa in a large pot with Purple Heart behind it.  In its native land, it grows in grasslands with well drained soil.  Further south in Texas, it does well directly in the ground.  Here it is an annual that must be protected in the winter.

survivingccThis rose, The Showbiz Rose, is in a pot because right now I don’t have a place available in a flowerbed.  It is a heavy blooming floribunda.

It was purchased at the nursery at Biltmore.  Really, I should never be allowed to walk through a nursery just to look.

survivingdBut who could resist this beauty?

Now that you’ve seen some of my plants in pots, is it any wonder that my husband dreads the end of fall and the beginning of spring?

surviving3Now to some easy care plants, like this New Gold Lantana.  Basically, put it in the ground and forget about it.

surviving4Mexican Petunias have finally become aggressive after about 10 years.  Easy as pie if you have enough space for them.

survivingeA skittish Cardinal enjoying seeds in the grass.  Usually, they bolt at the slightest movement.

surviving2I was rather late coming to the fad of grasses as yard plants.  But I do like Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima).  I’ve read that it can be invasive, but so far, that hasn’t been the case here.

“Misers are not fun to live with, but they are great ancestors.”  Tom Snyder

Drooping in the Heat

The beginning of summer was so mild.   Then the heat was switched on suddenly.  Everyday now is in the high 90’s with a few 100’s.  Some plants are just barely surviving while others are hardy enough to last here.

Is it really this hot every single summer?  Yes.  It’s just easy to forget that until reality sets in.   But the mild winters and the few months of spring are great.

bloomingnowThis Sage Sapphire Carpet (Salvia sinaloensis) is now history.  I should not have believed the label – full sun.  Ha!  If I had moved it to the shade, maybe it would be alive but wouldn’t bloom.

Nice to enjoy in the spring but not worth it.

Bulb Flowers4“Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lily is now five years old and produces beautifully.  Being on the east side of the house, they only get morning sun.

Bulb Flowers5They droop downwards, so kneeling on the ground is required to get a pix.  Still a beautiful sight in early summer.

flowerbushes1The Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) bush has spread out to about five feet.  With its large, thin leaves, I’m amazed that it survives in full sun.  It’s one of those great perennials that can be planted and forgotten about.   Water twice a week during high temperatures, and it’s good to go.

flowerbushes4Just love the turban flowers.

flowers9‘Victor’ Crape Myrtle is dwarf size with coral red flowers.  It’s three years old and still not as many blooms as I expected.

texas star hibiscusThis is the way Texas Star Hibiscus blooms should look.  In the past, mine have had that greenish yellow joint between the petals.

flowers1But this year it looks like a regular Hardy Hibiscus flower transferred onto a Texas Star Hibiscus bush.

flowersCrazy.

flowers4This is a Hardy Hibiscus across the yard.  This bush gets tall and has lots of blooms before the heat wilts it.  With frequent waterings, it remains vibrant.  I just water it enough to keep it alive this time of the year.

When the heat gets to me, I remind myself that it won’t last forever.  It will still be awhile, but cooler days are ahead.

“A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.” Paulo Coelho

More on Kerrville

Many of the smaller towns in Central Texas are tourist destinations.  Partly, that’s because of the natural beauty of the rolling hills covered with native trees.  Also, those towns have made a concerted effort to draw people with museums, festivals, shopping, and other attractions.

kerrvillekKerrville has lots of walking paths along the Guadalupe River.  This is in a parking lot for the beginning of one of those trails.

kerrvillelI like this barrel cactus among the other native plants.

kerrvillemThis picture was taken by stepping away from the concrete walkway, which was at least 10 feet wide.  The paved pathway was a mile long.  Beautiful views and easy on the feet.

I think most of these trees are cypress.

kerrvillenStonehenge II is in an open field area.  The idea came to Al Shepperd in 1989 when he turned a limestone slab up on end.  He and his friend, Doug Hill, decided to construct plaster and graphite covered metal mesh and steel frames to replicate the ancient stones in England.

kerrvillepStonehenge II is 90 percent as wide as the original and 60 percent of the height.

kerrvilleoAfter visiting Easter Island a year and a half later, Shepperd added two heads copying those he visited.

kerrvilleqShepperd had plans to add Alaskan type totem poles, but died in 1994 in his 70’s.

The land is presently owned by Shepperd’s nephew and is open every day to the public.

kerrvillerDriving home, we stopped at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg.   It’s like a magnet drawing us when we’re in the area.

Deep red Crape Myrtles line the drive into the parking lot.

kerrvillesEven though it was hot, we strolled through the gardens and listened to a band performing in the courtyard.

Thanks for reading about our short trip.  Hope you have a chance to visit your favorite sights, wherever you live.

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and co-workers and even strangers you meet along the way.”   Barbara Bush