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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City on the Concho

In West Texas, San Angelo is a town with a river, the Concho, which gives it many advantages.  Having a water source in an arid region is huge.  Therefore, the town boasts some green areas.

Although we’ve visited the town numerous times, on a recent overnight trip, we saw some places previously missed.

As we walked toward a Mexican restaurant (what other kind!) in the center of town, we passed the library, which has some large windows that jut out and are trimmed with this tile work around the door.  Always fascinated by symbols chosen to represent reading.

Outside the library is one of San Angelo’s ubiqutous painted sheep.  This one features children’s books.

I recognize pictures that represent Charlotte’s Web, Hank the Cowdog, and Alice in Wonderland.

The statement:  “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Here’s the favorite of many.

The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts’ unusual building is constructed of many different materials inside and out.  The inside space features a main two story central area with smaller exhibitions rooms around it.

One current exhibit displays the work of local artist, the late Jimmy Don Cox.  Western paintings and sculptures show his eye for detail.

Another show called ‘Critical Angles’ by Cathy Cunningham Little from San Antonio contains unique art using glass, mirrors, and light.

The small pieces of glass and instructions for placement were mailed by the artist to the museum.  This involved a complicated placement of the materials to achieve the exact light forms.

The only light in the room came from the small lights above each set of glass.

From this angle, you can see some of the glass.  Beautiful.

The serene outside area is nicely done with landscaping and well thought out green space and hardscape.

Love this little girl reading.

The Aermotor Windmill Company in San Angelo still manufactures and constructs the old fashioned windmills that have character and hark back to the settling of the west.  Not like the intrusive giant wind turbines that are taking over our beautiful countryside and destroying land values.  I could go on and on about that.

This succulent ground cover has lots of pretty small flowers.  Looks like a type of ice plant but don’t really know.

A cowboy teaching a kid about rope tying.

Walking down the street from the museum, this horse sculpture made us stop.

The wood in front with the holes is from Cholla Cactus.

Several old buildings along this street have been renovated for businesses.

The next morning we attended a short seminar about Gardening with Natives.  Afterwards we went to a small nursery outside of town that has a demonstration butterfly garden.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I failed to get an overall shot.  My mind must have been on what was for sale in the nursery.

This is a Blue Potato Bush, Paraguay Nightshade, or Blue Lycianthes (Lycianthes rantonnei) for zone 8b to 11.

Clever idea that is easy.  Just paint some molded forms that are used for garden bed borders.

Behind the caterpillar on the right is an Italian Basil and on the left is Curly Parsley.

Using a wheel barrel for a fairy garden has been on my to do list for a while.  Maybe this will nudge me to get busy.

A strong wind was whipping the flowers on a Morning Glory Bush pretty good.

Bush Morning Glory, Morning Glory Tree, Badoh Negro, Borrachero, or Matacabra (Ipomoea carnea) survives in zones 8b to 11.  Several years ago I had one that lived about three years.  Then it became too tall and cumbersome to move into the shed.  So adios to that.

The star of the show is always Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) because it is so bright that it’s hard to look anywhere else.

Pride of Barbados is a zone 9 tropical evergreen, but in zone 8b, it is a perennial that dies to the ground.  It’s on the Texas Superstar list.

I’ve tried one that froze.  Some people cut them to the ground in early winter, mulch them heavily and cover them, so I’m going to give it another shot.

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”  Hugh DownsSave

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Water Lilies

The International Water Lily Collection in San Angelo is usually a surprise to people simply because of its location.  In dry West Texas to find the largest group of different lilies in the world is astounding.

It’s all the result of one man who had a fascination that became a dream and a passion.  Ken Landon has traveled the world to collect lilies from the wild in sometimes dangerous places.

lilieseIt all started with one lily that was found locally.  Landon then hybridized that one with another lily to make a hearty beautiful lily:  Texas Dawn, which is the state lily.

lilies001The lilies are in a city park and the ponds are about 15 feet below street level.  As we walk down stairs, we pass by Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) plants, which grow in warm weather climates.

lilies002Walking to the entrance to the ponds is Potato Vine spilling over a rock wall and making a bold statement.  Being below the street level requires terracing and plants that keep down erosion.

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liliesdThe rest of the pictures will be eye candy since I can’t identify each lily.

liliescAlthough the ponds are in a city park, the lilies themselves are owned by Landon’s consortium.  Ninety-nine percent of his collection of plants and seeds are stored to protect the species.

liliesbTo make the lilies pop out, a specific dye is used to make the water dark.

lilies034There are six ponds filled with lilies.  Each lily is planted in a barrel and submerged.

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lilies4Dragonflies were flitting back and forth over the ponds.  One has settled on the bottom left petal of this flower.

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liliesAlthough the forms of the lilies are subtle to my untrained eye, the colors of both the flowers and the pads are lovely.

For anyone living in Texas, this should be on their bucket list.  The Lily Fest is September 24, but crowds will attend.  I prefer having the ponds all to ourselves but on a cooler day than when we were there last Friday.

“People tend to complicate their lives, as if life weren’t complicated enough.”  Anonymous

Cooler Temps

Twenty degrees makes a world of difference.  From 95 degrees to 75 degrees recently has perked up everything.  It’s nice to have the weather match the calendar.

Also, we were blessed with six inches of rain.

coolautumn6Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a winner.  It was named a Texas Superstar by Texas A & M in 2011.  And that it is.

coolautumn7Pictures of the garden really points out flaws.  In this photo I noticed the Hackberry tree growing in the Salvia Greggi.  I have since cut it down.  Behind the salvia is hardy Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  and several different rose bushes.

coolautumn8In front is Double Delight rose, then Tropicana rose with tall Knock-Outs in the background.

coolautumn5Purple Aster didn’t perform very well this year because it needs to be divided.  I’ve read that should be done in early spring.

coolautumn3The dead pods on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)  are beginning to bug me.  I was leaving them as food for birds this winter.  But I decided to cut the heads off and leave them in the flowerbed.  Then the stems can be eliminated.  That way the birds can forage on the ground, and the dead plants are not an eyesore.

The Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena globosa) bloomed in the spring, hot summer, and now into autumn.  Even though they are small, their bright color gives a great bang for the buck.  They also reseed generously.

coolautumnaMexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) are still going strong.

coolautumncThey don’t bloom with a great mass, but the delicate tubular flowers on the ends of tall stalks are pretty.

coolautumndCannas have revived with some red flowers.

coolautumneBlue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) fuzzy puffs continue to draw butterflies.

coolautumnfA few flowers remain on Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), but leaves have dropped off.

coolautumnkDuranta (Duranta erecta) is a hot weather plant but has seemed to like the cooler weather.  Love it.

coolautumnmWhat is prettier than these clusters of tiny purple flowers?

Several potted plants still look good:

coolautumnhRussian Sage, Turk’s Cap, and Kolanche in pots provide some color.

coolautumniFinally, the Bougainvilla has a few blooms.  Don’t know what the problem is, but thes are the first flowers this year.  Probably didn’t fertilize it.

coolautumnjAfrican Bulbine’s (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) flowers wave in the wind.  All of these potted plants will have to go into the shed for the winter.

hibiscusHibiscus is looking good.  The wet weather is agreeing with it.

hibiscus1Love the color of the flowers.

hibiscus2This tropical Hibiscus has been in this pot for eight years.  The beautiful flowers make it worth hauling into the shed each winter.

coolautumnoIce Plant will die back during the winter.  I used to always have a start inside, but it has come back from the last two winters, so that doesn’t seem necessary.

ContainerPlants1Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) or False Shamrock has been in this pot for years.

coolautumn1Last week I was working at the Brady Master Gardener’s Butterfly Garden.  I thought that Monarchs had already passed through this area, but I was obviously wrong.

coolautumn2I love Maxamillan Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) with lots of flowers on each stalk.  They grow in the bar ditches around here.

The cooler weather is great, but it also means winter will be here soon and flowers will be gone.  But winter is what makes spring so special.

“Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”  unknown

San Angelo

This is the time of the year when most gardening seminars are held across Texas.  Recently we attended the Concho Valley Master Gardener Symposium in San Angelo.

sanangeloWhile there, we visited some favorite sites.  As crazy as it sounds, we enjoy the San Angelo Visitor’s Center.  I know I’ve shown this place before, so I tried to get different photo shots.

sanangelo1With the visitor’s center up high, the rock work down the slope to the Concho River is attractive and creative.

sanangelo3This grass clump, whatever it is, has grown even taller than when we last saw it.

sanangelo4The plants chosen for this area are drought tolerant and hardy, like this Knock Out Rose bush.

sanangelo6I took the following pictures in the bathroom because they appealed to me.  They show Texas native animals.  You can just scroll through quickly if you’re not interested.

This is a wild boar or feral hog (Sus scrofa).  These have become a major problem because they destroy property, are dangerous to animals and humans, and are multiplying faster than they can be controlled.  The tile picture makes it look cute, but it definitely isn’t.

sanangelo7Scorpions have become a problem this year for us.  For some reason, they have invaded our house, even with pesticide spraying.  I’ve been stung once and had forgotten how painful they are.

sanangelo8Another pest around here are jackrabbits because they feed on flowerbed plants as well as grass.

sanangelo9 It’s very rare to see a Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) or Horny Toad, as they are called in West Texas, anymore.  They’re presently on the threatened species list.

sanangeloaWild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are hunted, but I don’t see how there could be much meat on them.

sanangelobAnd, lastly, the nemesis that digs up our yard and burrows in the flowerbeds.  The Nine Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is the only armadillo to live in the U.S.  Sometimes I think they have targeted us, but I know that it’s much easier to dig in amended and watered soil than in the hard, dry pasture land.

sanangelocAll around San Angelo are painted fiberglass animals.  This cross-eyed ram stands in front of a Mexican restaurant.

sanangelodThere are several murals around town that depict periods of history or influences that shaped San Angelo.  Although most people haven’t heard of Elmer Kelton, he was a prolific author about cattle ranches and other aspects of West Texas life.

sanangeloeThe fourth Hilton Hotel was built here.  Over the years, it has housed many different enterprises, including an ‘old folks’ home’.  Currently, the bottom floor has a restaurant, and the upper floors appear to be apartments.  The mezzanine seems to have the only remaining remnants of the original art deco style.  The ballroom is still in its original condition.

sanangelofThis is the top of one of the columns just outside the ballroom.

sanangelogWhile in San Angelo, of course, we had to make a stop at the International Water Lily Collection.

sanangelohWe waited until a cooler part of the day to go, just as the sun was low.  Again, just flip through these if you’re not interested.

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sanangelonThis past weekend we attended the Pollinator Pow Wow in Kerrville.  Pow Wow is a native American term that means ‘The gathering of the people to share wise words’.

Bright colors of painted bats blend well with dead leaves where they roost. Flight, Vespertilionidae, S and SE Asia

Bright colors of painted bats blend well with dead leaves where they roost. Flight, Vespertilionidae, S and SE Asia

A lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonyderis yerbabuenae) feeding on cardon cactus fruit, This is the world's largest cactus, growing up to 50 feet tall. Seed Dispersal

A lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonyderis yerbabuenae) feeding on cardon cactus fruit, This is the world’s largest cactus, growing up to 50 feet tall. Seed Dispersal

Dr. Merlin Tuttle was the main speaker.

My opinion about bats was what most people think – yucky creatures.  But he convinced me of their importance in pollinating many different plants around the world.  He told excellent stories about his interventions to save bats.

This is longer than most posts.  Thanks for sticking with it.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”    Albert Einstein.

San Angelo Water Lilies

To say unusual and unexpected is an understatement about the San Angelo International Water Lily Collection.  The fact that it exists is due to the dream of one man – Ken Landon.

First, a little history.  San Angelo is located where five spring fed streams converge.  As early as the 15th century the Indians that lived there were peaceful hunters and gatherers.  Early Spanish explorers named them Jumanos.   These same people groups would go to Spanish missions and settlements further west seeking protection from the warlike plains Indians.  They described their home area as a land of water and flowers.

In the early 1600’s two monks from a Franciscan monastery near present day Albuquerque were sent to investigate their claim and found a crystal clear pond covered with water lilies.

This information comes a pamphlet provided by the city at the Visitor Center.

waterlilykToday the water lily collection is part of the city park system but is supervised by Mr. Landon.  This is the most extensive collection of different varieties of water lilies of any place in the US.

The ponds are about 12 feet below street level.

waterlilybAlong the street side a steep wall covered with Cross Vines is a striking backdrop as well as the plantings in front of it.  These include the hardy Texas Superstar Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans).

waterlilygThe two side “walls” are terraced beds filled with many different varieties of plants.  Some are well adapted to the area, like the hardy Hibiscus with the large blooms.  In this same bed are some tropical Hibiscus, which have to be dug up and taken into the park system’s greenhouse.  Others are replaced from new rootings already being grown in the greenhouse.

The back ‘wall’ opens into another park area.  There is also some construction there.  Maybe new ponds?

waterlilyfThis shrub with the greyish green foliage is Cassia.  I only know that because the ground crew had just finished their lunch and answered a few questions for me.

waterlilyeHas the characteristics of other Texas survivors.

waterlilydThe dark color foliage might be Potato Vine.  The bright green is Ice Plant and the Red is Oxblood Lily or Schoolhouse Lily (Rhodophiala bifida).

Now to the eye candy.

waterlilyj‘Texas Dawn’ (Nymphaea elegans) is the variety of Water Lily that is native to the area.  It was named the official state water lily in 2011.

Because the Texas lily is so hardy, Dr. Landon cross pollinated it with other lilies for stronger strains.

I don’t know the names of the following varieties.  Just loved the soft colors and different forms.

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waterlilyaThe giant pads are usually from Asia.

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waterlilyA great place to visit even if you think it isn’t your cup of tea.  I don’t plan to have a pond of any sort because it would be an invitation for more wild animal visitors in the yard.  But nature is amazing and can be enjoyed in its many forms.

“Communist until you get rich; feminist until you get married; atheist until the airplane starts falling.”  The Hypocrite Diaries

San Angelo

This past week we did a whirlwind trip to San Angelo for a Master Gardener’s Landscaping Symposium.  So we had a half day to see some sights and then a full day for the symposium.

sanangelodIt may seem odd to spend most of this post on the Visitor Center only.  But it is impressive.

sanangeloThis picture was taken because I had never seen a Texas Sage or Purple Sage bush trimmed into a tree.  This one must be several years old because mine freeze each year and then reach a height of 3 feet before the next winter arrives.

sanangelo1This is the courtyard on the other side of the large stone arches in the first picture.  At the edge of the patio is a curved viewing area and steps leading down to the river.  To the right a door leads into the actual information area where there are brochures and volunteers to answer questions.

sanangelo2This is the view from that small lookout ledge.  The Concho River is spring fed, so it is not almost dry like other rivers in West and Central Texas during this drought.

sanangelo5This looks back up to the visitor’s center.  The two statues explain where the city’s name originated.  Note the Purple Heart vines tucked into the rocks.  There must be a little soil there.

Angela de Merici, (21 March 1474 – 27 January 1540) was an Italian religious leader and saint. She founded the Order of Ursulines in 1535 in Brescia.  Actually, I could not find any information to explain her importance to the city.

“Santa Angela,” was the settlement that sprang up across the Concho River from Fort Concho.  It was named in honor of Carolina Angela de la Garza DeWitt, deceased wife of the city’s founder Bart J. DeWitt,

sanangelo3Ten feet tall bronze statues of St. Angela Merici (Santa Angela) and Carolina Angela de la Garza Dewitt.

sanangelo4sanangelo9The volunteers said that all the rock work by the river was finished recently.  But obviously, enough time has passed for plants to grow.

sanangelo8The local limestone rocks were put to good use and created a very tranquil garden area.

sanangelo7I don’t know what type of grass this this, but the height and form blowing the in breeze was lovely.

sanangelo6Painted fiberglass animals is a trend in many West Texas towns.  We saw several in the downtown area.  Most of the towns hold contests and recognize the winners with prizes or just bragging rights.

This one is appropriate for the town’s information center since it depicts places and events for San Angelo.

sanangeloaReally like all the stone work and especially the hefty stone benches.

Hardy plants like these Knockout Roses were used.  The small plant in the water looks like Papyrus.

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sanangelocEven the tiles in the bathroom show local critters.  From the top:  horned toad, armadillo, wild pigs or boars, jackrabbits, wild turkey, and scorpions.

sanangeloeThis was the only picture I took at Ft. Concho.  It was a frontier army post from 1867 to 1889 and played an important part in the settlement of this whole area.  When the fort deactivated, soldiers rode away leaving the buildings and furnishings intact.  Families moved in, so the buildings were occupied until 1920 when the Preservation Society stepped in and the city acquired the land.

Because of the limestone construction and the continuous care of the structures, they look relatively new.

See Ft. Concho to view a video showing furnishings inside the buildings, events, and history.

Even though San Angelo seems remote, it is a vibrant town with much to offer.

“By the time the Texas frontier had run its course, those who settled the land could point to a unique experience that had turned the largely Southern population into westerners.” unknown