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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Menard Community Garden

Menard, Texas, is a small town with concerned citizens.  One couple has taken on the project of educating children about gardening through the Junior Master Gardener program.  They have classes for students from kindergarten through junior high.

This couple also maintains the citys Marjorie Russel Education memorial garden.

menardgarden5Following a relatively wet year, the garden has grown tremendously.  My husband and I were there in early spring this year to help other volunteers do clean-up to get ready for the new season.

menardgardenOn this visit with the Master Gardener students who were finishing their course for certification, the garden was alive with butterflies.  Bluemist Flowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) is a must have plant for central Texans to attract butterflies.  I admit that I’m prejudged about this plant because it has been so successful in my own yard.

menardgarden1A Viceroy butterfly busy feeding.  In front of the Blue Mist Flower is Artemisia, another wonderful plant.

menardgarden2Monarch butterflies absolutely must have milkweed plants to survive.  This tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is one of the showier milkweeds that is a beauty in the garden.  Unfortunately, mine freeze each year and don’t return.

On the right are rose hips from spent roses.

menardgarden3Lots of Zinnas are scattered throughout the garden.  Anyone who says they can’t afford plants should consider buying cheap zinna seeds.  The flowers reseed, so they keep on giving.

menardgarden4Behind the zinnas is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) which adds another dimension of form and texture to the garden.

menardgardencThe layers of plants, even with their intertwining, appeal to me.  Guess I just like a jungle look.  Not for everyone; I understand.

menardgarden6Not only do the Junior Master Gardeners meet here and plant their own plots, anyone in the community can rent one of these plots for $10 to $30, depending on what they can afford.  The city provides the water, and the couple in charge do the watering.  What a deal.

menardgarden8Another popular plant that appeals to pollinators is Salvia Greggii.  Not sure what kind of butterfly this is.

menardgarden7I think this is a Black Swallowtail.

menardgarden9This Salvia Greggii is called Lipstick.  The grower that came up with this name had quite an imagination.

menardgardenaBluemist Flower usually has lots of dead blossoms.  Doesn’t seem to bother the butterflies.

menardgardenb

menardgardendThere are several fruit trees in the garden, including this Fig.   Many of the plants and trees have been donated.

menardgardeneRock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a hardy Texas native with small flowers.

I admire people who give of themselves to their communities.

“Trump and Clinton are like divorced parents fighting over custody of us. And we just wanna live with Grandma.”  unknown

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Oldies but Goodies

One of the pleasures of gardening is the return each year of perennials.  Success with plants is not always the case, so it feels good when it happens.

oldiesOne sure way to achieve success in the garden is to use native plants.  All plants are native somewhere, so planting native always refers to what grows naturally in your neck of the woods.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is one of those wildflowers that comes up wherever it pleases.  If that doesn’t bother you, then it works.   I like the way the white flowers kind of glow.

oldies8Clammy Weed and Zinnas are easy to please – just a little water and sunshine.

oldies1Rose of Sharon also does well here.  Most of my bushes have the flowers that look like Hibiscus.  These have a rose look.

oldies2One of the best plant that gardeners in central Texas can have are Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  Just step up close to them and have butterflies darting all around you.oldies3Blue Mists fill in spaces among other plants.  If you like that, you’re good to go.  If not, put them in a contained flower bed.

oldies44Another beauty is Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus drummondii).  It doesn’t look like it would survive Texas sun, but this plant has been in this spot for eight or nine years.  it’s tough.

oldies4The garden is doing well when all kinds of “good” bugs live there.

oldies5Bright red of these turbans always make me smile.

oldies7Behind the Blue Mist, Mexican Petunias (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’) keep expanding.  This is another one that needs to be contained if you have limited space.

This group all came from one cutting that I took nine years ago.  If you see something you like, then ask permission to take a cutting.  If it doesn’t survive, then nothing lost.

oldies6One of my favorites:  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) was planted many years ago.  I bought it long before I knew anything about it.  It is now a Texas Superstar plant.

Many hardly plants are found in cemeteries.  These were growing on a grave when they were discovered, so they were named for the name on the tombstone.

oldies9Ordinary Morning Glory reminds me of old gardens of the early settlers.  There’s a reason they have been around for years and years.  It’s impossible to kill them.

Just a few seeds from a friend and voila, you’ll have flowers forever.  But they are invasive, so beware.

oldiesaRock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is one of the better behaved natives.  It stays where it is put and is not invasive.

oldiesbPretty little flowers that look more like hibiscus than roses.

oldiescStrawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) does come up profusely.  But it’s a small plant that looks good poking its head up among other flowers.

Neat and tidy in the garden isn’t my thing.

oldiesgCanyon Creek Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’) is fighting to keep its place in a bed since Pink Gaura keeps spreading out.

oldiesdThis bush in the back yard is so bright and cheerful.  I have sought to identify it definitively.

Finally, a nursery man had one like it and told me it was a Texas Flowery Senna (Senna corymbosa).  Other names include Flowering Senna, Tree Senna, and Buttercup Bush.

After about six years, it’s about 6 feet tall and wide.  Great plant.

oldiesfSmall green flying bugs or bees flit from flower to flower.  One is on a petal in the upper middle of the picture.

Wildflowers are just weeds.  So pick the pretty ones you love and plant a few seeds.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”  W. E. Johns

 

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.

augustheatc

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

Lovely Autumn Days

There have been studies about the affect of weather on people’s moods.  High crimes rates have been linked to long periods of hot weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a syndrome noted for depression during winter months when there is less sunlight.  So why am I writing about weather and moods?  Because this autumn is so fantastic that everyone is talking about it.  “What a beautiful day.” is a common phrase now.  Just so thankful for this time of the year.

autumnblooms1These mild sunny days have brought flowers to my Rock Roses (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele)  that have hardly ever bloomed.   They are also know as Rose pavonia or Rose Mallow.

autumnblooms2They have a woody stem and can grow in shallow soil on limestone.

autumnblooms3Also still blooming a little is Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta Hook).  Another popular name is Fiddleneck.  This year mine has grown to about four feet tall.

autumnbloomscThe buds are slow to open, so it’s hard to find a cluster of all flowers open at once.

autumnbloomsjThe Zinnas just keep on giving.  About six or seven years ago I planted one package of seeds.  Over the years, only pink and a few orange ones have survived by reseeding.

autumnbloomslThe bees continue to enjoy them, probably even more than I do.

autumnbloomsiAfter last year’s winter, I thought this Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata) might not make it.  The Dirt Doctor calls this the most beneficial insect-attracting plant he has ever grown.  Not sure about that, but I do agree that the fragrance is wonderful.

autumnblooms9This year at the Garden Club plant sale, I bought an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).  I’ve always shied away from them because everyone warns how aggressive they are.  But those are the kind that do well for me, so I grabbed a couple.  And I love their look.

The Obedient name comes from the fact that the stems can be bent in any direction and remain there.  So that’s nice in floral arrangements.  Unfortunately, in the garden they don’t stay where they are put.

I hope this is a wonderful season for you.  Thank you for taking time to read my blog.

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” Zig Ziglar

Not a Rose

When is a “rose” not a rose?  When it belongs to a completely different family than roses.  Roses (Rosa) are woody shrubs in the Rosaceae family.  Most of us recognize a rose without even thinking about it.

So why do so many other flowers have “rose” in their name?  Who knows.  Maybe because of the romance and sentimentality associated with a true rose.

notarose3Ross Moss (Portulaca Grandiflora) is considered an annual, but is a perennial in our area.  It is a member of the Portulacaeae family.

Even in a plastic pot on the north side of the house, it returned after a cold and long winter this year.  Rose Moss can’t tolerate our heavy clay soil, so it needs a pot with good drainage.

notarose2Desert Rose (Apocynaceae Adenium Obesum) is actually a succulent member of the Oleander family.

notarosebOne of its characteristics is the formation of a bulb shape at the base of its stem as it ages.  This one only has a slight bulge so far.

notaroseMexican Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is a perennial related to the agaves.  Polianthes means “many flowers” in Greek.

They don’t usually start blooming here until August, when the heat has been around awhile.  This picture is from last year.  The temps, as well as the humidity, have hit high gear, so they might be blooming in a month or so.

rockrose6Texas Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a member of the Mallow family.  It is a small shrub that needs little moisture.  Mine doesn’t get much bigger and rarely blooms, maybe because it’s in a bed that gets watered.  It could also be that the amended soil in the lasagna bed is too good for it.  Never thought I’d say that about anyplace in my yard.

notarose4Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is in the Mallow family.  It is also known as althaea.

notarose5More pictures show the abundance of flowers.

notarose1All the bushes in the above pictures came from a friend’s cuttings.  She got them from her sister in Michigan.

pinkroseofsharonThis is a different variety of Rose of Sharon that I ordered from a catalog.  Nice color and ruffled center.

pinkroseofsharon2Doesn’t even look like the same flower.  All Rose of Sharons are hardy, hardy, hardy.  Not much water is needed to live, but it is necessary for them to bloom.

What do all these plants have in common?  They are drought tolerant, pretty, and thrive in the heat.  Despite their names, they are not in the rose family. notaroseEven a stone is called a rose.  If you use your imagination, a rose shape can be seen.

Desert Rose is a variety of gypsum that forms in the spaces between sand particles. It traps the loose sand in a unique flower-like crystal structure.  They tend to be small.  These are 1.5 inches across.

Rose rocks are found in Tunisia, Algeria, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and in central Oklahoma.

Oklahoma rose rock was formed during the Permian Period, 250 million years ago, when western and central Oklahoma’s  shallow sea coverage was receding.   It is the official rock of Oklahoma.  Didn’t even realize that states had designated rocks.

“I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered.  But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue:  no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”                     Eleanor Roosevelt