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

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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

Native Plant Sale

Every spring in April the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a plant sale.  Friday is members day.  We shop then because the crowd is somewhat smaller and the supplies are plentiful.

LBJjThe eager shoppers line up at least an hour before opening.  Most bring their own wagons to carry home their treasures.  The center has a few carts but recommend that people bring their own.  As they wait, people get acquainted and swap plant advice.

LBJkThe line continues even further past the archway.  The prices of the plants are okay but not fantastic.  The real draw is that only natives are sold.  Believe it or not, it’s difficult to find natives in nurseries.  Local nurseries have some but much less than here.

LBJWhile my husband holds our spot in the line, I wander around enjoying the plants.  The above Columbine is the only native one to Texas.  A solid yellow one had adapted and grows very well here.

LBJl The shape of Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) flowers are unique among Texas natives and is basically a woodland plant.

LBJmThe Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) is in full bloom.  I’m told that it’s a very dependable showstopper.  Just love it.

LBJfI really appreciate public parks and gardens that label the trees, shrubs, and other plants.  This one also provides other useful information.

LBJeAlthough I didn’t find a label for this one, I’m pretty sure that it’s California Poppy, also known as the Golden Poppy.

LBJdMore Cross Vine.  I’m got to get me one of these.  Just need something for it to grow on.  And it needs to be big, because they grow and grow up to 50 ft. long.

It blooms from March through May in full sun or part shade and has low water needs. A friend told me that they are evergreen.   Of course, butterflies and hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.

LBJcOthers also enjoy this area of sunny plants in raised beds.

LBJaThis Eve’s Necklace (Styphnolobium affine) is larger than any that I’ve seen.  Mine was planted two years ago and is now two feet tall .  But they can grow as large as 15 to 30 feet tall and can live on limestone slopes.

LBJbThe seeds look just like they’ve been strung on a cord.  I can hear Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” in my head.  But the seeds are said to be poisonous.

LBJ6Noontime is not the best time to take pictures.  Even in this partly shaded area, the strong sun is washing out the pictures.

LBJ5Red buckeye (Aesculus pavis var. pavia) blooms from March through May along streams and creeks or in moist woodlands.

LBJ7This is not what I had pictured as Bunch Grass (Nolina texana) from the Lily Family.  But I’m sure the botanists here know.  It grows in rocky soil from Central Texas into Northern Mexico.

LBJ8The sign says it all.

LBJ9A Maidenhair Fern in a natural type setting.

LBJ2Even a fire hydrant is dressed up with Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).

LBJ1 It’s impossible to live in Texas and not love the native flowers.  They define spring here.  Sure, most are short lived, but boy, do they fill the land with gorgeous beauty.

Thankfully, there are also some summer wildflowers that can endure the heat.

LBJiThe light is diffusing the blossoms on this tree.

LBJhThe Crab Apple (Malus angustifolia) flowers show up a little better here.  Fruit follows the flowers on this Texas native.  The wildlife enjoy the fruit, but it’s messy in a yard.

LBJgA semi-shady nook as a calm retreat.

LBJ4As we walk out the center, the areas around the parking lots are filled with more wildflowers.

LBJ3It’s easy to see why Lady Bird loved Central Texas and the wildflowers.

LBJnThe name Indian Paintbrushes always confuses me.  I guess they look like brushes dipped in paint, but so do other flowers.  Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is native to Texas and Oklahoma.

It also is a spring bloomer and grows among grasses and other plants.  Their roots invade the roots of other plants to obtain a portion of their needed nutrients.

This time of the year brings special joy to all who enjoy native plants and especially, flowers.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson