Spring Fed River

While in San Angelo recently, we enjoyed strolling through a small park area bordering the Concho River.  The key to success in public park spaces is meeting the needs of local people and knowing what grows well in your area.

The sight of this spring fed river in dry West Texas always makes me feel good.

Although this area is beside a major road, it is quiet and peaceful.  The deep shade of what I think is Arizona Cypress (Cupressus Arizonica) is a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

A  soothing spot to while away an morning or afternoon.

Continuing our walk, we cross the river on the foot bridge.

The Concho River in West Texas seems like a strange place for a mermaid statue, but is actually appropriate since she is holding a Concho freshwater mussel that produces gorgeous pearls in many colors.  The pink one is probably the most well known, even from the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

The sculptor, Jayne Charless Beck, was a San Angelo resident artist who passed away in 1993.  After his death, this bronze casting of “The Pearl of the Concho” was donated to the city.

This memorial for 9/11 victims displays 2,996 flags for the victims.

A metal cross stands in the center of the memorial.

Several plantings of Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate) provide a coolness to the area.  It is native to South Africa and survives in zones 8 – 11.

This combo with Texas Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) contrasts the brightness of the yellow and the calming effect of the blue.

The draping of the Blue Plumbago’s long branches is an additional plus.

In the right zone, Plumbago is easy to grow.  Unfortunately, for me it is an annual and has to be grown in a pot.

Yellow Bells also require mild winters, but the problem can be solved with heavy mulching and some kind of cover over the roots.

Grass plantings are very popular.  This is Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) with an Autumn Salvia Greggii (Salvia greggii) in front.

Some consider Mexican Feather Grass to be invasive.  It has not been for me, but the top half of the plant should be cut off in winter to keep it from flopping and looking messy.

Salvia greggii should also be cut back severely in winter.  Otherwise, it becomes too leggy.  The species has several different flower colors.

I think this is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetumsetaceum ‘Rubrum’), which is hardy in zones 9 – 11.  It’s used as an annual in larger Texas cities.

Mugwort or Artemisia  (Artemisia vulgaris) placed in the middle of Mexican Feather Grass adds a lovely softness.

Salvia Greggii can be overused because of its hardiness, but this park has just a few scattered here and there.

One of my favorite ornamental trees or large bushes is Chaste Tree, Abraham’s balm,  Monk’s pepper or Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).  They are just so reliable for our dry areas, plus they have gorgeous purple flower clusters.  After the flowers die, the cluster of berries can be dried and used in arrangements.

Before turning around, we stopped outside of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts that we had previously visited a few weeks before this trip.

Potato Vine with Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and maybe a Bougainvillea that isn’t blooming.

Nothing is as refreshing as a walk through nature, even if it’s in the city or maybe, because it’s in the city.

“We always want the best man to win an election.  Unfortunately, he never  runs.”                   Will Rogers Save

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Old Reliables

One of the great things about old friends is that they love you in spite of your flaws.  I feel the same way about plants that I can depend on.

Privet bushes (Ligustrum vulgare) are invasive in the southeastern U.S. and are much maligned by horticulturists.  But here, in our hard, rocky clay, they just survive.

In early spring, they flower heavily and provide a wonderful aroma.

This bush has been here about four years, so at some future date, I may have to eat my words.  But, for now, we are enjoying it.

And so are the butterflies.

Strong scent attracts Painted Lady butterflies.

We have been dragging the same two pots of Asparagus Fern in and out of sheds for over thirty years.  Actually, the roots would probably survive outside in the winter, but it takes a long time for the sprigs to grow back out and look nice.

At one time, I had some in hanging baskets, but that required diligent watering.

It is interesting that they aren’t really ferns but are in the lily family.

For several years, Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) Whirling Butterflies has been blooming in our yard.  I must admit that they are becoming aggressive but are fairly easy to dig up.  They haven’t yet jumped out of the flower bed where they were planted.

I also like them in pots that can be moved around the yard.  They will return after the winter, even in pots.

Dianthus will return for several years but will eventually die out.  They are lovely little flowers.

This pot came from my mother’s yard.  At 97, she recently moved into assisted living.

Another Amarylis just bloomed.  This one is in the ground.  Even though this one isn’t quite as pretty as the last one I showed, I do like the short stem.

As I’ve said before, bulb flowers just keep on giving.

Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) are starting to bloom.  Year before last, they were divided and spread out into two different beds.  This year they have regained their fullness and filled in nicely.  Shastas are a good investment because they are reliable, add a bright clean look, and the clumps can be divided.

The Mexican Feather Grass behind them adds graceful movement.

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.”
David Letterman

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In Fredericksburg

Recently my husband and I drove to Fredericksburg to scout out gardens.  My mission was to fine appropriate places that a class of prospective Master Gardeners could visit as a group to provide additional information and to observe different garden styles.

fredericksburgThe first stop was the Master Gardeners demonstration garden at the Ag Extension Office.  Although it isn’t the prettiest area, it shows a specific trait that is valuable for Texas gardens.  It does not receive supplemental water – only rain water.  Tough plants, only.

fredericksburg1Mostly native plants and a few others that have acclimated to the region are used.  It looked like there had been little rain recently.

fredericksburg2Mexican Feather Grass and native Redbuds are drought tolerant.

fredericksburg3Some of the plants here are Salvia Greggii, Purple Sage, and Cross Vine.

fredericksburg4The next garden was the Biblical Garden at the United Methodist Church.  It is small but a pretty spot.  Someone has done research to match the names of plants mentioned in the Bible with common names of plants today.

fredericksburg6Since Israel is arid, many plants that survive there also do well here.

fredericksburg7This sign identifies the plant with the yellow flowers in the former picture.

fredericksburg8A Pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) is referenced in Song of Solomon 4:14.

fredericksburg9Palm branches were used in John 12:13 and are common in Palm Sunday services.

fredericksburgaPapyrus (Cyperus papyrus) is seen on the left, and Bulrush (Typhaspp.) on the right.  Exodus 2 relates the well known account of the basket woven to hold baby Moses.  Both of these plants are considered possibilities for that with papyrus being the most likely.  It is also what was used for paper by the early Egyptians.

fredericksburgbAlthough this could actually be Papyrus, it looks a lot like Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius).

fredericksburgbbTrailing Rosemary is in the foreground and Purple Plumbago is growing under the tree.

fredericksburhNext we visited the Texas Rangers Heritage Museum, which is still a work in progress.  Flowerbeds lined the parking areas and around the pavilion.  But it seems I didn’t get pictures of those.  Guess I was enamored with the sculptures.

fredericksburhhThe plants in the flowerbeds were pretty predictable – Purple Sage, Salvias, and Cactus.  Several plants had died.  It will be interesting to see how this area is developed.

Next post will show more public gardens that we visited.

“Real Gardeners buy at least 10,000 plants over the course of a lifetime without having any idea where they will put them when they get home.”  unknown

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

Gardening Challenges

Anyone who has dug a hole for plants and tended them with the anticipation of growing vegetables, flowers, trees, or just green bushes knows the frustrations of gardening.

There are basically two categories of challenges.  Things that are out of our control, like weather.  Then there problems that are of our own making.  Boy, do I know that one.

Warning:  The following pictures are depressing (at least, for me, since they’re from my yard.)

problems3Gardeners usually plant for the average rainfall that can be expected.  So here, where our annual average is 27 inches, drought tolerant plants are recommended.

But this was a most unusual year.  In May, it rained 14 inches.  That hasn’t happened since 1895.  So far, our rainfall has been just under 26 inches this year.

I’m definitely not complaining about rain.  It’s just that some  drought tolerant plants got root rot from too much rain in a short time.  Especially here in our clay and caliche soil.

The above picture is one of my favorite native plants succumbed to wet caliche – Texas Yellow Bells.

problems1It’s probably best to consider the most dominant weather factor in a particular area.  For us, that’s heat.  So drought tolerant plants must be our choice.  Even if that means losing some when we have extreme unusual conditions, like our rare rainfall this year.

This Almond Verbena couldn’t take the soggy ground.

problems7Soil is another big issue.  Clay and caliche just don’t cut it for gardening.  So the choices seem to be:  amend the soil or use raised beds.  We’ve tried a little of both.  The easiest solution is definitely raised beds.

problems8Then we have the heat.  August has brought blistering 103 temps.  Frequent watering just keeps everything from  burning up.   problems5Insect and critter pests are also problems for gardeners.   For several years, grasshoppers have been our plague.  They can defoliate a plant in a few hours.

They’re happily chomping on this Russian Sage.

problems6Here are the remaining stems.

Gardeners have to choose where to be totally organic or to tackle problems with pesticides.   Since we live in the country, we don’t spray for bugs because it would be useless.  We just hope plants will recover the next spring.

Other pests for us include armadillos and skunks digging in the yard, especially when the surrounding fields are so dry.

problems4In the rear right hand side of this photo is a tower trellis that has been lifted up and twisted by a climbing rose.

Landscape design has become a hot topic in the gardening world.  It’s one of my weakest skills.  Even though I’ve read the books and attended classes, I still tend to underestimate the mature size of bushes.    Plus, I use more varieties of plants than what is recommended.  My excuse is that I don’t know what will survive, so I try them out.

problems2Sometimes, we’re faced with a “What happened?” problem.  Detective work or seeking advice sometimes helps.  Other times, it just remains a mystery.

One day this native Redbud tree was healthy and the next, it looked pathetic.

problemsAnother what happened.  This Mexican Feather grass may be a casualty of water staying clay or of something else.

Gardening experts warn against planting imported plants that are invasive.  But my archenemy is our native Bermuda grass.  Its runners constantly invade flowerbeds and put down deep roots.  We also have an many assorted weeds.  Most of those are easier to pull than the grass.  Examples of these are in this pix.

If you click on the links, there are nicer pictures of the plants before they bit the dust.

Wherever one lives, gardening is not an easy hobby.  But the rewards are fantastic.  So a gardener’s motto is just keep on working and experimenting.

“Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling

Robust Flower Bed

Still have the same dilemma that I always have when planting.  Beds usually become too crowded because the plants get bigger than I imagined they would.  Or there is too much space around the plants.

frontbedhjpgThis bed is visible from the front porch and front windows.

frontbeddI like the colors and the plants individually but overall design needs work.

frontbedbThe yellow border is made up of Stonecrop Sedum.  From a small start taken from my mother’s yard, I have scattered it around in several beds.  This year I put some around the edge of one end of this bed to create a border.

The positive characteristics of this sedum is that it roots and spreads quickly, is drought tolerant, and covers nicely.

frontbed8As soon as summer heats up, the yellow will disappear and leave tall dead stems that will need to be cut off, unless they don’t bother you.  The green will become a dull greyish green.  So it’s not a perfect plant.

frontbedcThis is the first Butterfly Weed (Asclepias) I’ve had that is covered in blooms with a bright orange color.  I have two others in a different bed that look pretty bland.

This plant seems misnamed because it doesn’t attract butterflies like other plants that grow nearby.

frontyard614uIn front of the Butterfly Weed Bush is a native Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) that has filled out this year.  A friend assured me that I would like it when she gave it to me.  And she’s right even though the blooms are not large.

frontbed1These Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum) have spread and bloomed like crazy this year.  These were also a pass-along from a friend.

frontbedNot sure which specific Gomphera these are, but they are a neon magenta color.  I planted them because I didn’t think last year’s Gomphera were coming back.

frontbedmThe Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) have gotten leggy this year, so they are susceptible to being trampled by whatever creatures stomp through them at night.

Some interesting facts about Texas Bluebells:
The Japanese have been breeding them for over 70 years and know them as Lisianthus.  They have developed pink, white and deep purple varieties with both single and double petals.

Texas Bluebells are little known now because they are so pretty.  People have picked them so much that the native flowers haven’t been able to reseed in the wild.

frontbed7Bluebell are delicate looking flowers but are hardy in nature, if left alone.

frontbedkThis monster just keeps growing.  If it didn’t die in the winter, it might just take over the yard.  I don’t remember what it is, but it was bought at a Lady Bird Johnson Center sale, so it’s a native.

frontbedlSandwiched between that plant on the left and the Cone Flowers on the right is another mystery plant.  I don’t think I planted it, but it grew here last year, too.  I keep waiting for it to bloom hoping to identify it.  The leaves look like those of a mum.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, it’s out of here.

frontbedjThe Cone Flowers(Echinacea) did a great job of reseeding because many more are coming up.  The Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) with the red flowers did return but apparently did not seed.  I’m still hoping that some of those seeds will set for next year.

frontbedaLove the look and color of these Coneflowers.

frontbediThe Blue Curls bush (Phacelia congesta) also is growing like a weed.

frontbed9The Blue Curls flowers on stalks are a soft muted purple.

frontbednIn fact, the bush has gotten so big that the wind whirligig won’t move.

frontbed4The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) also is jammed up against a bush.  Small clumps came up all around the original plants.  I have moved several to get a fuller look at this end of the bed, but some four legged varmits keep digging them up.

Makes me wonder if I’ll ever get it right.  I like a nice full look, but not this crowded.

frontbedfLast year three small Strawberry Fields Gompheras (Gompherena haageana) were planted here.  I asked the man at the nursery if they would reseed.  He said “Maybe.”

This year I had given up hope but the other day noticed the mass of tiny plants.

frontbedfgjpgThey are already blooming and getting their height.  So I have plenty of Gompheras to share.

Guess I’ll keep muddling along trying to get the look I want in the flower beds.

“The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.'”  Unknown

What’s Blooming

Although most things are not in full bloom in the yard, there are some flowers.  Enough time has elapsed since our last freeze to access the losses from the winter.  Dead trees and bushes have been pulled up, so it’s time to enjoy some the freshness of spring.

yardsummerstartxThe Mexican Feather Grass  (Nassella tenuissima) came through all that cold like a breeze.  This is a Texas native from the Trans Pecos area that tolerates limestone based soils – hooray.

yardsummerstartkThis time the dark clouds actually materialized into some rain: an inch last week and almost two inches yesterday and this morning.  Time for a happy dance.

Beside the larger Mexican Feather Grass are some green new clumps that came up in several places.  I transplanted them close to the parents so there will be an even fuller display swaying in the wind.

yardsummerstartyHenry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) or sage is a reliable plant that spreads and puts on a show every year.  The first three tiny plants were put in eight years ago.

yardsummerstartzIt blooms from spring until the first freeze in the full sun.  And that’s Texas sun!  This one deserves the Texas Superstar status it has and is for anyone who needs a drought tolerant, hardy bit of color.

yardsummerstartwThese Gopher Plants were planted a month ago.  There are several different botanical names for plants that look like this.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is an euphoriba.  I had heard that it was a good plant for this area and is from the Mediterranean region, which usually means drought tolerant.

The Gopher Plant name comes from the fact that they are poisonous to gophers.  Wouldn’t they also be poisonous to other animals?

yardsummerstartvSince I bought it (and I had to search for it), I’ve read that it does not survive in clay soils.  Oh, well.  I’m watching it closely to see if it needs to go into a pot.

Note the single grass like green shoots behind it.  These only grow in this area and plague me.  I’ve pulled and sprayed.  Nothing seems to work.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

yardsummerstart8The Balloon Flowers are starting to open.  For eight years, they have done very well, but they don’t spread.  I’ve read that they also do not survive dividing.  So I finally bought a few more to fill in the space.  It seems that no nursery in our area carries Balloon Flowers, so these were bought at Lowe’s in the metroplex.

The other stems with lacy leaves are some Larkspur that came up in this bed.

yardsummerstart7Another reliable sight each year is the Mexican Bird of Paradise.

yardsummerstart6More Larkspur in another bed.  I let them bloom where ever they appear since they perk up any flowerbed.

yardsummerstartThis Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is my prize for the year.  This is a gorgeous wildflower that grows in bar ditches. It is also called Texas plume, Red Texas Star, or Red Gilia.  Two years ago I bought a few at the Lady Bird Johnson Center plant sale.  This is the first time any have bloomed.

yardsummerstart2Love, love their brilliance.

yardsummerstart3The tubular flowers look similar to some other plant blooms, like Acanthus, but the color is stronger.  Just doesn’t get any prettier.

“Do one thing today for someone.  It may not mean much to you, but it might mean the world to them.”  Unknown