A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

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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High and Low

It’s easy to miss the little beauties on the ground and those above us.

highlowIron Weed (Vernonia altissima) is a native that grows in bar ditches around here.  I gathered seeds and put them in a pot.  This one has done so so in a container but really should be sown in the grown.

The flower clusters are small but a bunch of them is eye catching.

Normally, it blooms in late spring and summer, but the cooler weather has revived it.

highlow1Up above my head Vitex or Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) from the Mediterranean region has a similar climate to ours.  The flowers stand out silhouetted against the blue sky.

highlow5Native Yarrow (Achillea) provides a casual look to the garden.  In this case, I’m hoping it will spread and provide shade for the ‘feet’ of a Clematis.

Native Americans used ground yarrow boiled in water and cooled as a wash to treat sunburns.

highlow2The berries on a Chinese Pistache tree (Pistacia chinensis) draws my eyes upward.  This tree is a good choice for our area because it is pest free with a hardwood that is decay resistant.  It was chosen as a Texas Super Star tree for many reasons.  This great shade tree that has autumn color is one of my favorite trees.

highlow8After the heat of the summer passed, Cone flowers have popped back up.  I’m not sure which Echinacea variety this one is.

The stems are shorter this time around than the earlier spring ones.  Love these.

highlow9But a warning.  These reseed to produce a massive array.  It’s not possible to have just a few.

highlowdReally like the unusual color of these Geraniums.  The red flowers have a pink strip on each petal.  This came from my mother’s house.  Right now it needs a little TLC but still very nice.

highlow3Looking straight up, the Crossvine (bignonia capreolata) has started to crawl across the top bars of the arbor.  It’s nice when plants follow the plan.

highlow4A great vine for pollinators.

highlowfA sort of whirly jig: the wheels spin on this truck on a pole.

highlowbShasta Daisies ( Leucanthemum × superbumare) are also blooming again.  Most people enjoy their familiar and clean look.

Don’t you love the signs of fall and the cooler temperatures?

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”  Ronald Reagan

Morning Snow

Early this morning I stepped outside on the front porch to photograph the snowfall.

snow4The cold wind kept me close to the front door.  Snow had dusted the leaves of a Live Oak.

snow5Probably less than an inch fell, but it’s such a rare event here that it’s mesmerizing.

snow6The rays of the rising sun swept across the trees.

snow7The Chinese Pistasho had a golden glow from the sun.

snow9During the night strong winds formed small snowdrifts with shapes that reminded me of White Sands in New Mexico.

snowaIn the distance the Blue Junipers looked like Christmas trees.

snowb

snowcA snow mound formed over a flowerbed.

snowdDead leaves still clinging to a Red Oak.

snow1The side yard as seen from the back patio revealed snow on only one side of tree trunks.  Maybe it was the wind that woke me at 4 this morning.

In the foreground is a Yaupon Holly.  To the right is a bare branched Red Oak.

snow8One bush beyond the yard looked like white lace.

snowSnow on one side of the Cherry Laurel tree.

snow3More Live Oaks.

snow2Cotton ball snow on tips of Sedum Brilliant dried flowers.

snowfSnow covered Autumn Clematis, which is evergreen.

snowgNice to look at, but not drawing me out into the weather.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Dr. Suess

Fall Color in All Its Glory

The conditions for leaves to turn color in the fall involve the right temperatures at the right times and the right amount of rainfall at the right times.  In the fifteen years that we’ve owned the property, there has been some color, but nothing like this year.  Just spectacular.

autumncolors3This first group of pictures were taken from a state highway as we were driving home from town.  Don’t you love the quaint setting?

autumncolorsSumacs are clustered close to the shed.

autumncolors1Old buildings pose questions to me.  I wonder about the people who lived there – their joys and sorrows.  They represent someone’s life.

autumncolors2All these buildings were on an old homestead.

autumncolors4This next group of pictures were taken on our county road.  All pictures in this post were made on a cloudy misty day.

autumncolors5For a half a mile, this road is flanked by dense trees and vegetation.  It feels like driving through a tunnel of trees.

autumncolors6Not sure if the red leaves are Red Oaks (Quercus texana) or Shin Oaks (Quercus sinuata).   Shin Oaks are also known as White Oak, Scrub Oak, Scalybark Oak or Bigelow Oak.  They tend to be low growing, about 3 to 5 feet tall, and grow so densely that they become a thicket.  They are native to areas that have hard limestone.

autumncolors8

autumncolorsaShiny from the moisture in the air.

autumncolorscThe thin yellow leaves are Prairie Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) with clusters of berries that the birds love.  They turn red first and fade into this paler color.

autumncolorsdThe trees thin out on this part of the road, partly because they have been cleared by county crews.  I think these are both Red Oaks.

It seems like the colors deepen and change daily or least weekly.

autumncolorseNow we are a mile from our gate entrance.

autumncolorsf

autumncolorsmThese photos are made from our front porch.  It’s raining a little harder now.

autumncolorsh

autumncolorsiA Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis) in the yard is framed by a native Live Oak.

autumncolorsrIn the distance is a Lombardy Poplar tree in front of a stone cabin on our property.  We use it for extra guest space.  Poplars always seem old fashioned to me – probably because as a child I saw them on farms of relatives.  This tree was here when we bought the property.

autumncolorsjThe best view is from the back porch.  There are several ridges all around our land.  This fence is just around our house and barn to keep out cows and deer.  But everything shown in these photos is on our property.

autumncolorskA Red Oak in the side yard.  The trees in the yard are only two to ten years old.  We chose a building site on a level, raised area up from a creek because we wanted the view.  We’re so glad that we did because the creeks do rise when we get three or more inches in a day or so .

autumncolorsnThe ridge colors are more dramatic than the pictures show.

autumncolorslTo the left in the yard is a small Lacey Oak (Quercus laceyi or Quercus glaucoides).  Other common names include blue oak, canyon oak, mountain oak, smoky oak, and rock oak. Most of these common names refer to the tough conditions in central and south Texas where this species are native or are related to its blue–green foliage.

autumncolorsoThe views from inside the house let us enjoy each moment of this wonderful color.

Thank you for reading to this point and letting me share some of the reasons we love living here.  It is a privilege to live in the country after many years in the city.  Of course, there are some inconveniences, like no quick runs to a store for a forgotten item.  But that’s minor compared to the pluses.

“Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people’s drama, repeat these words: ‘Not my circus, not my monkey’” Polish proverb

Before the First Frost

Our first freeze was a few days ago with a low of 28.  So it’s farewell to flowers and warm weather.  Being forewarned by the meteorologists, we took an afternoon and hauled pot plants into the sheds.  Of course, that time included cleaning out the sheds and carrying some things, like fertilizer spreaders, that won’t be needed this winter to the barn.

Both metal sheds have skylights and blown insulation.  One has a heater sensitive to temperatures.  That’s where ferns and other tender plants are stored.  Plants that I don’t want to freeze but can survive some cold go into the other shed.

fall2yardOne final bloom from the tropical Hibiscus.  I know I show a lot of pictures from this bush.  But, in my defense, the flower color is stunning.

fall2yard4These small pots of Ajuga Bugel Weed (Ajuga reptans) go into the shed.  If the plants were in the ground, then they should come survive.  But I’m not sure how well they would do in the pots.  Most often, Ajuga functions as ground cover, but I can’t decide where I want to use them.

The African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) definitely has to be protected.  It’s one of those plants sold way north from its home.  Probably, the big box stores intend for customers to use them as annuals.  Crazy me.  I get attached to plants.

fallyardhThese mums are local buys that will be carried inside and out as needed for decorations.  Then next spring, I’ll plant them in a flowerbed or larger pots.

fallyardiThis variety was bought at a grocery store – couldn’t resist.

fallyardjThe red tips caught my eye.

fallcolor4Roses were still blooming right up until the freeze.  These are Knock-outs with some Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  in front.

fall2yard2Katy Road Roses are central Texas hardy that survive blazing summers and intermittent freezes during the winters.

fall2yard3I don’t know the name of this rose, but it, also, is a hardy bush here.  Roses are actually easy to grow.  Until we moved here, I didn’t have a place for them.  They absolutely must have sun and some water.  Drip system works well.

fallyardgYellow Knock Out Roses.

fallyardePink Knock-Outs.

fallyardcI always dread for the last blossoms on Duranta (Duranta erecta) to die because I know it will be months and months until they bloom again in late July.

fallcolorSome of first signs of autumn here are the red berries and golden orangeish leaves on the Chinese Pistache tree (Pistacia chinensis).

fallcolor3The Red Oak leaves turning copper are next.

fallcolor7This is a different Red Oak, and it’s covered with acorns.

fallcolor5Finally, the berries on Possomhaw (Ilex decidua) get larger and turn bright red.

Nature is always in flux, as we must be.

May you and your family have time together to celebrate the blessings of life.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;                                             let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.                             Let us come before him with thanksgiving                                         and extol Him with music and song.”             Psalm 95:1-2

A Dramatic Entrance

What?  An ice storm before Thanksgiving.  Temperatures in the 70’s would be more usual.  So winter has made a grand entrance.

icestorm2The orange-gold leaves of a Chinese Pistachio covered with an icy lace.

icestormTwo Crape Myrtles become stark white.

icestorm3Notice the ice on the ground under this leaning Ratama.  It was sweeping the grass in a stooped manner before I took a small hammer and knocked off as much ice as possible.  I really, really, want this little tree to survive.

icestorm4But this Desert Willow did collapse.  It already had a weakened root system.  We left the stakes and ropes around it too long.  Plus, it got too much water in the flowerbed.  I’ll miss the beautiful orchid-like flowers.  So we’ll take this lesson to heart.

icestorm5Branches of a different Chinese Pistachio hang low.

icestorm6The ice is thick on this Blue Curls bush.

icestorm7Ice emphasizes the structure of a plant and makes it beautiful in another dimension.

icestorm8The top of the pergola takes on an artistic look.

icestorm9Yellow leaves and branches of this Hackberry are crusted with ice.

icestormaAny blade, large or small, presents a perfect surface for ice to coat.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and your family.  May you be blessed and be a blessing as you gives thanks for every good gift from above.

“How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age.  Thanksgiving opens the door.  It changes a child’s personality.  A child is resentful, negative – or thankful.  Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people.”  Sir John Templeton