WestCave Preserve

Last Friday we headed to Austin for some diverse activities:  a little shopping, some Mexican food, a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and a visit to a grotto.

WestCave is about 40 miles west of Austin in an isolated area.

By the entrance gate is some New Gold Lantana.  I had thought it was a hybrid, but everything growing here is native.

Some Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) in front of the main building.

As we head down, we get a glimpse of Pedernales River.  The word means flint stone.  The Spanish explorers named it to denote an area the Indians had used because it was rich with a high quality brown flint or chert.

Ball moss hanging from Live Oaks.

The moss is a Tillandsia or the type of plant that gets its nutrients from the air and is not harmful to the tree host.

Further down, Woodland Fern grows among the rich soil of tree leaf mulch.

Not sure what this plant is – maybe a type of Oakleaf Hydrangea?

The path is rough and steep.  Wish I had taken a picture of the stone stairs, but I was concentrating on staying upright.  The guide constantly reminds the group to stay on the path for our safety and to protect the preserve.

Some American or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) seems to grow out of rocks.

Love the bright red of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) flower.

At the end of the trail is the grotto area.  It seems that we’ve stepped into a mythical secret place.

What looks like a cave is just a spot under fallen rocks.

Delicate Maidenhair Fern provides more lush growth.

Standing under the large fallen rock, the dripping water forms a thin curtain.

This the actual cave that we climb into.  The rocks are wet and slippery, so I’m thankful for the wire hand holds.

The Cow Creek Limestone forming the ceiling of the cave is covered with ancient sea shells.

The humidity is so high that by the time we leave this area, we’re soaked with sweat.

But I take the time to take photos of these two dragonflies.

I’ve never seen a red-orange one before.  Glad one stopped darting around long enough for a photo to be taken.

Two full days of activities was fun.

Have a blessed day.

“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world.  Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know and don’t understand.”                          David AttenboroughSave

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Cafe at the Ridge Garden Vignettes

Our Master Gardeners Club took a day trip last week to the Kerrville area.  Our first stop was Café at the Ridge outside of town.  Originally it was called Roadkill Cafe.  About 12 years ago a new owner renovated it and put in a bakery, a garden, a nursery, and a gift shop.

Immediately I knew I would love this place.

Usually, whiskey barrels are cut in half for a flower pot.  This arrangement of three different ways to use the barrels make them much more unique.

Behind the railing is the porch area for the cafe.  We ate a delicious lunch there.

The wood is mesquite, which is expensive because it takes a long time for trunks to get large.

The pot on the left contains a Hardy Hibiscus.  Behind that is Dusty Miller with its lacy gray leaves.  On the right are some Daylilies and mystery yellow flowers.

This picture is to show the use of a broken pot.  In the center, surrounded by Begonias is a large pot that has parts of the pot stuck in the remaining large section.  There is also a bright blue pot placed inside.

Even though I like yard art, I don’t care for the hanging sunflower circles.

Another reconstructed clay pot contains plants and a fairy garden.

Unusual.

Lots of brightly colored pots for sale.

The theme of the garden seemed to be:  use as many unique items as flower pots as possible.  Here, old chest drawers were attached to legs and hold Foxtail Fern, Woodland Fern, and Begonias.  Not sure about the dark leafed plant.

A concrete basket contains Dusty Miller, Pentas, and maybe Penstemon.

A seesaw for adults

I’m always on the look out for old metal cars.  So far, no luck or they are too costly.

The round plaque would be nicer if it were more legible.

I actually have an old enamel pot that I need to drill holes in so it can be a planter.

The plant in the large pot looks like a Mexican Flame Vine (Pseudogynosux chenpodiodes) and the purple leafed one behind it is Princess Caroline Napier Grass, which is a Texas Super Star plant.

Because the Mexican Flame Vine is zone 9 -10, I have to move it into the shed for winter.  I bought it at a garden club sale in Waco but didn’t realize it was too tropical for here.  But it is beautiful.

Even old tires can become planters.  Not sure how they folded the tire back after cutting the zigzags.

A word about yard art.  This place has an overabundance of it.  But they are selling plants, pots, yard art, and suggesting ways to use plants.

The “tea and brie” set look down their noses at yard art.  But it can be used effectively.  First, one should see and enjoy the plants.  Then, wandering through the garden, one should encounter pleasant surprises that makes one smile, such as yard art.

In the city, that can be more challenging because of yard space, and because  some community rules prevent it.  But enjoy it when you can.

Lamb’s Ear in front.  The bedstead in the back has been turned into a plant protector.  In the center is a wire grid tepee that can be covered with plastic to shade plants from the sun.

Note the posts for this porch – cages filled with chunks of glass.

This picture was taken to show the Bottle Tree.  Haven’t seen one with that shaped frame.

I was enamored with this place, so lots of pictures.  Next post will continue with more from this nursery.

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Antique Rose Emporium, Last Part

One last look from our visit to this fabulous nursery.

roseemp0The old weathered sign expresses the feel of this place.

roseemp1A pot of Begonias next to an Agave.

roseemp2They do a good job of just mixing in all sorts of plants.

roseemp3Don’t know what this plant is.  It looks tropical and is shaded by the tree.  Lovely.

roseemp4Roses everywhere.  In the springtime, this is the place to come and smell the roses.

roseemp

roseemp6This section is playful.

roseemp5The rabbit in the wheel barrel with plants spilling out of pots is delightful.

roseemp7The plants with the purple flowers behind the scene look like Philippine Violets (Barleria cristata).

roseemp8

roseemp9Wood Ferns, Philippine Violets, Cigar Plant:  this breaks the rule that plants with the same watering needs should be planted together.  Now I don’t feel so guilty for doing the same thing.

roseempaMike Shoup, the owner of the nursery, presented some new roses that they now sell.  Although the backbone of their business will always be antique roses, he says that producers are coming out with bushes that have some of the same characteristics of antique roses:  such as fragrance, diverse forms, and hardiness.

I’m sure his presentation increased the sales that day.  I know I couldn’t resist one of the new roses.

roseempbA Salvia Greggii with white flowers.

roseempdThe purple grasses look like Napier (Pennisetum purpureum), which are perennials that will return in the spring in most of the state.

roseempeI don’t know what the purple flowers are, but this picture was taken to show the trellis behind them.  Several different types of of trellises are scattered around the gardens.  I think this one is made of bamboo.

roseempfThis small dead tree is used to hold up a climbing vine.

roseempgAny ole stone statute can be used as an accent.

roseemphEven the public restrooms are in a unique building.  The hedges on the left serve as a privacy fence for the usual line of women awaiting their turn.

roseempiGreat use of large clay pots.

roseempjSucculents for sale are displayed on an old cart.

roseempkAntique Rose Emporium had its origin in selling rescued roses from cemeteries and old home sites.  Now it is a wonderful garden with a very diverse display of plants and a joy to visit.

“Despite our many differences here in America and around the world, when we meet in the garden we find ourselves united in our love of nature, beauty, and the sheer awesomeness of life.”  Old House Gardens

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

Focus on Foliage

My passion is flowers, but sometime I buy plants solely for their foliage.

grayDusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)  is what I consider an old fashioned plant because my grandmother always had one.  This one has struggled in a pot and really should be in the ground.  It originates in the Mediterranean area, so does well in our climate.

gray2Artemisia (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’) is a wonderful bush with soft leaves.  It, too, does better in the ground, although this one has lived in this pot for six years.

foliagefPrairie Sage (Artemisia Ludoviciana) is also known as silver wormwood, western mugwort, Louisiana wormwood, white sagebrush, and gray sagewort.

The name comes from Artemisia. wife of Mausolus, ancient king of Caria.  Ludoviciana is from the latin form meaning “of Louisiana” and probably refers to St. Louis, since it’s close to prairieland.

foliagegPrairie Sage grows throughout the Grass Prairie Region.  It can grow to 40 inches in height and prefers disturbed areas along roads and railways, dry areas on rocky, sandy or gravelly loams.

The plan was for a small bush, but it’s only two years old.  Another time when I should have read the small print.

foliagehMine is in full sun, but they can also tolerate partial shade.

foliagedI buy a lot of native plants at the annual spring plant sale at Lady Bird Johnson Native Plant Center.  Sometimes I get one that isn’t labeled.  I thought I was buying Joe Pyle Weed but this certainly doesn’t match the pictures on the internet.

foliageeThis reaches 6 feet and is about four feet wide.  Not what I had in mind.

foliage1It doesn’t bloom but has a nice a shape in the winter because its long branches come from the center and form a water sprinkler shape.  In February, I cut it back to the ground.

If anyone knows what this is, please let me know.

foliage3Woodland Fern does well in the shade here although it had gotten rather sparse after nine years.  So I plugged in two additional plants this year for fullness.

foliage4gray3Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) was an impulse buy six years ago from a booth at a small town fair.  I didn’t expect it to get so big.  Transplanting it into a larger pot takes two people and some finesse.

foliageaThe curls gives it an unusual look.

foliagecEvery edge is covered with sharp barbs.  I’ve backed into it a few times and have to carefully extricate my clothing.

“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.  Unless there are three other people.” Orson Welles

Garden Memories, Hopes

When the skies are dreary and the yard is barren, I look for any color, shape, light to lift my spirits.  Although we have not had the rough winter like most of the US, winter cold makes me long for spring.  Guess living most of my life in a dry, hot environment has become part of who I am.

afterfreeze1A few pots of Pansies are still alive – scraggly, but colorful.

afterfreeze2Green from Yellow Columbine sticks out between dead Woodland Fern.  In the spring, I’ll be mumbling about Columbine coming up unwanted in this bed.  Now I’m glad to see something alive.

afterfreeze3Good ole reliable Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum keeps on keeping on.

afterfreeze4Underneath these resting Daylily stalks lies the bulbs that will provide new stalks and gorgeous flowers in the spring.  The promise of new life encourages all gardeners.

afterfreeze5Dead Senna branches will need to be cut off to the ground in the spring, but now they provide seeds for birds.

winteryyar3Twirling Hummingbirds make me smile in all seasons.

winteryyard3

winteryyard2Not much rain this fall and winter, so I like the looks of some melting ice on tree branches.

winteryyardThe sunlight made them sparkle like diamonds.

winteryyard4All the Gomphera heads are white now rather than the bright red ones that will bloom in the spring.  Each of these hold about 100 seeds.  They will be so thick that thinning will be required.  I plan to move some to a new bed and to share some.

winteryyard5Pansies just amaze me.  I guess because I’m such a wuss in the cold.

winteryyard8We’ve had several Cardinals in the yard this year.  They are so wary that my attempts at photographing them has not been very successful.

winteryyard9Talk about bringing a bright color to the yard.  I love to watch them from inside a warm house.

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  unknown

Front View

When we built our house and put in the “lawn”, I confess that we were not enlightened enough about water conservation.  So we have a large expanse of grass that I have been gradually eliminating with flowerbeds.  The grass is native Bermuda that came from the pasture soils we dumped over the rocky caliche yard areas.  As the weather gets hotter and the occasional rains have stopped, the grass will be more yellow than green.

Since I’ve never really shown the overall layout of the land, here goes with the front of the house, which faces north.

frontyard614xThe house is not really tilted – just my photo.

Although I would like to blame someone else for many of the choices in the yard, we both agreed to most everything.  I still think that our location, surrounded by pastures, does require a large open space.

frontyard614sOn the left side of the front, against the house, there are heirloom Daylilies and some hardy well adapted Yellow Columbines. frontyard614All the Daylilies were planted close to the house because those were the only flowerbeds we had when a friend gave us a whole trunk-load of newly dug bulbs.  Nothing had been done to the yard yet except stone laid for the flowerbeds and sidewalks.  So with no soil preparation, they were planted into the thick clay and have been healthier than should be expected

frontyard614aLet me interrupt myself:  when we were outside the other day, a baby Barn Swallow fell or was pushed out of a nest under the edge of the front porch covering.  It just took a dive into the grass in front of us and stayed there, probably stunned.  Eventually, it did fly away.

frontyard614rJust to the right of the porch is a bed of Purple Heart.  Then further right is Woodland Fern.

Another aside:  The wet walkway is from a 4 one-hundredth of an inch morning rain.  Lately, we’ve had several of those rains with some up to .20 inches.  Not really enough to water but enough to cause really high humidity.  And that is something we are not used to.

So with the humidity and the gnats, caused by lack of wind, it’s been a killer to work outside.  Whatever we complain about usually comes back to haunt us.  For me, that’s been too much wind.  So now we’ve had the opposite.

To those hardy souls who garden in the deep South, you have my sympathy and admiration because you endure humidity that soaks your clothes in minutes and all kinds of pesky flying menaces.

frontyard614y2 The Purple Heart has almost filled in its bed.  In fact, enough was growing out onto the walkway that I was able to break it off and share it with someone who wanted it.

In the foreground of the picture is a pot of African Bulbine.

frontyard614fThen, in the only true shady bed, is the Woodland Fern.  Columbine keeps trying to take over, so it requires diligence to keep it out.  But I don’t always keep up.

frontyard614gA potted Boston Fern in the corner has a pot of Kalanchoe in front of it.  The leaves on this particular Kalanchoe never seem to look healthy, but the blooms keep coming.

frontyard614dAlso, tucked in that corner is an Elkhorn (Euphorbia  lactea Haworth) that I’ve had for 5 years.  It’s also called Frilled Fan or Crested Euphorbia.  Although it thrives in the heat, it does better without direct sun.

It just keeps growing upwards and is tricky to move inside during the winter because it has sharp barbs on every edge.

frontyard614nAnother bed of Daylilies on the west side comes to the edge of the front fern bed.

As you can guess, I feel that I should apologize to those who urge us all to go xeriscape.  But I don’t truly like that look, especially in the extreme.  My preference is for an English Garden look, which I’m working towards using some drought tolerant plants and natives.

Happy gardening whatever your style.

“Gardening is a mirror of the heart.  Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow.  Gardening is an exercise in optimism.  Gardening is not a rational act.”  Margaret Atwood