Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

In the Good Old Summertime

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.”

This song comes from the Tin Pan Alley group of New York City music publishers and songwriters that started in 1885 and went through the early 1900’s.  It was originally the name for a specific area in the Flower District of Manhattan.

To me, the good old summertime means what’s happening in my yard because of the heat and lack of rain.

These are the small palm tree looking stalks that forecast the blooming of Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius).  In spite of the name, they are drought tolerant.  The stalks will reach 7 feet with small sunflowers by the end of August.

Reliable Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), a Texas native, continues to flower with their cute little turbans.  It grows well in most parts of the state in sun or shade.

A great plant for our super hot summers.

There are two birds that we can count on every summer:  Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.  The creation on top of this Hummingbird feeder is the work of Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallows are pretty birds that look for a ledge where they build a nest of mud, grasses, twigs, etc.  The birds stand on these ledges and poop all over whatever is beneath that ledge.  They also return to the same nesting area each year.  This includes their young as adults.  Swooping in low, they almost run into your head.

Because the population had increased so much and nested under our covered front and back patios, there was always a mess on the floor.  So, we hired a carpenter to eliminate the ledges.

Although they are fewer in number this year, they now build nests on the brick walls and anything up high like where this feeder was hanging.

What a mess to clean up.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial bush that stands up to the heat.  It’s pale color isn’t too showy, but the scent of its foliage is wonderful.  The bees also love it.

The perennial Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) does well in the heat if it’s watered.

Bees flock to its small flowers.

“There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air.”  Peter Mayle

Passalong Plants

Winter is the perfect time to read gardening books.  Someone at a gardening conference recommended the following book to me.

This one was definitely worth the read.  It’s informative and humorous.  Two authors alternate writing the chapters.  If you read ‘Southern Living’, you’re familiar with Steve Bender’s gardening column.  The other author is Felder Rushing who has written numerous books and speaks frequently on the garden conference circuit.

Old plants that have been grown in the south for generations and passed along to family and friends is the subject of the book.  They explain growing conditions and how to propagate each plant.  This Spider Flower, or Cat’s Whiskers (Cleome hasselrana) reseeds freely.  So it’s easy to passalong either seeds or new plants.

“A word of advice to the novice – Cleome, particularly early in the season before flowering, looks suspiciously like marijuana.  Expect quizzical looks, and be prepared to explain.”  F. Rushing

“People give plants the dumbest names.  Just because individual flowers on the long stems of Physostegia have hinged joints and remain pointing in whatever position they’re bullied into by your finger, the plant has come to be called Obedience.  Well, don’t be fooled by this tame title…In moist soil, it’s so invasive that it actually seems to thrive on being brutally rogued.”  F. Rushing

That’s probably true, but I don’t have moist soil, so it spreads very slowly here.

“For all you fern aficionados out there who fancy yourselves experts on the subject, here’s a litmus test for you – are you familiar with Southern  Shield fern (Thelypteris kunthi)?”  S. Bender

It’s also sold as Wood Fern.  I am very happy with mine.  But, with our clay soil and dry climate, it doesn’t spread easily.

“I looked out my window the other morning and saw a troop of naked Ladies gracing my garden.  Don’t get excited – these weren’t dedicated sun worshipers or buxom starlets filming a B movie on location.  Instead, they were the surprising flowers of Lycoris.”     S. Bender

They’re also called magic lilies.  The most popular naked ladies here are Red Spider Lilies (Lycpros radiata).

“All of these Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckias) are easy to pass along.  Save seed or let them self-sow and transplant seedlings.  I always propagate it by dividing clumps in late winter or early spring.  Just lift a clump with a garden fork and pull the roots apart.”      S. Bender

The last chapter in the book focuses on the Southern habit of using yard art.  It’s titled “Well, I Think it’s Pretty.”

“Of course, most educated people consider such displays to be tacky.  But there are a couple of things wrong with this generalization.  First, you don’t have to be Southern to enjoy classic yard art.  Second, art is in the eye of the artist.  Who’s to judge what is good taste and what is bad?”

Although, I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that F. Rushing wrote that.  He presented at a conference I attended in the fall and showed his own yard.  He’s a zany comic and his yard art supports that.

“Painted crown tires benefit society beyond just being vernacular art.  For one thing, they recycle old rubber and are good for the environment.  And they’re funny – they give us a good laugh.”  F. Rushing

In their travels across the south, each author has visited many gardens, public and private, and collected many pictures of plants and yard art.  They are knowledgeable about their subject.

This is a fun book that is easy to read and provides helpful information.

“You don’t need a Ph.D., horticultural library, or yardman to belong to the Passalong Club.  All that’s required is a piece of earth and a generous heart.  In fact, you’ve probably been a charter member for years without realizing it.”  Passalong Plants

Flit, Flutter, Flap

Faster than the speed of light:  at least, that’s what it seems like when you’re trying to photograph flying creatures.

Although I’m definitely not knowledgeable about identifying butterflies, this is a type of Giant Swallowtail feeding on Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).

Flame Acanthus grows in poor rocky soil and in direct hot sun, so it’s great for our location.  It’s a perennial that does better if it is severely cut back in the early spring.  It starts to leaf out late in the spring, but from then until the first frost, it is covered with small tubular red flowers.

Here’s a Swallowtail on Obedient Plants (Physostegia virginiana).  Obedient Plants, native to North America, freely reseed, so they spread easily.

Another Black Swallowtail on Acanthus.

Queen Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) camp out on Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) all summer long.

They swarm the tiny powder puff flowers flitting from flower to flower.  If you want butterflies in your yard, Bluemist and Flame Acanthus will do the trick.

Some Dusty Miller is hanging over the Bluemist, but their meal is found in the Bluemist.

Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis) is common to the southwestern US.  Thanks, moth, for being perfectly still so I could get a picture.

A  Monarch (Danaus plexippus) stops on her journey to Mexico to enjoy the Bluemist Flowers.  Also known as the Milkweed Butterfly because that’s the only food source for their caterpillars.

Thankfully, the Monarch Butterflies aren’t as picky as their caterpillars.  This one enjoys Purple Asters.  Actually, it looks like two are feeding on the same flower.

This beauty – Pipevine Swallowtail or Blue Swallowtail (Battus philenor) adds color to the garden.

Detail is seen in this bright orange Dragonfly resting on a fence.

Giant Sulfurs or Cloudless Giant Sulfurs (Phoebis sennae) must love red flowers.  They have been a constant presence in our yard for a month.  This one is feasting on Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), the last one left from summer.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) attracts of Sulfurs.

Sulfurs are also fans of Flame Acanthus.

Other butterflies like this small one that I can’t identify are flitting here and there.

“Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  St. AugustineSave

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Heat Lovers

Some plants thrive in this crazy heat and don’t even bloom until July or August when the furnace heat waves hit.

Duranta (Duranta erecta), with its long, draping branches, starts to flower the latter part of July.  In this picture, Duranta is flanked by Bird of Paradise, one old and one coming up from the roots of the original tree.

This particular branch leans over into the grass, making it difficult to mow, so the grass is a little bit tall here.

A sprawling shrub, Duranta has clusters of delicate purple flowers near the ends of the branches.

Named for an 15th century Italian botanist, Castore Durante is native to the Americas.  Why an Italian?  Who knows?

Although Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) blooms more in the spring and fall, it certainly survives well in August and blooms occasionally.

The common name Crossvine comes from the cross-shaped pattern seen when the stem is cut.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) comes to its full gorgeous self in July and August.  This patch is about two feet tall.  Native to North America, it is in the mint family.

The individual flowers look like Foxglove, but are much hardier here.  When I bought this at a club plant sale, I was warned that it was aggressive.  That was a few years ago.  It has spread some, but I’m enjoying the forms and color.

My favorite thing about Gray Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is its soft texture.  The common name Lavender Cotton makes no sense to me.  It’s an evergreen mounding ground cover that reaches about two feet tall and three feet wide.  Santolina is native to the Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.

This picture was taken in early June, so the yellow flowers have since died.  But the overall low growing shrub gets a jolt of growth during the late spring and early summer weather.  The only complaint I have is that when it blooms, the plant seems to get more misshapen.

So glad that these plants and some others do well in this desert-like heat.  This year, so far, we’ve had 13 inches of rain.

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”  A.A. Milne

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Blooming in the Heat

Whenever I go outside to move the water hose from tree to tree, I feel like I should apologize to all the plants for the heat.  It’s unbelievable that they can live in 100 plus temperatures that continues for days.

In spite of the heat that takes one’s breath away, some plants continue to bloom.

flowers5Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’) Bloodflower, Swallow-wort, Butterfly Weed, or Scarlet Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’ is a survivor.flowers6Butterflies love it.  Monarchs must have milkweed to survive, so this is a pretty one to have in your yard.

flowers8Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)  or false dragonhead has gotten tall and is still blooming.

flowers9Friends have warned that it is invasive.  Anything that lasts in the hottest part of summer is okay in my book.  Plus, it’s attractive.

flowersgGood ole Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Physostegia virginiana) is a Texas native that never gives up.

flowershIt, too, could be considered invasive, but I love that it has spread.

flowersfTo get the orientation of this picture, Ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii Torr.) or Baldwin’s ironweed or Western Ironweed, is growing in the pot to the right, but has twisted up to the left.  It’s also called Tall Ironweed.  Now I know why.  This fall I plan to plant this in the ground somewhere, keeping in mind that it is aggressive.

flowersePink Gaura (Gaura angustifolia) Southern Bee Blossom or
Morning Honeysuckle with tons of swaying blossoms is a favorite.

flowersbBees were flitting so quickly that I couldn’t get a good picture.  But there’s a side view of one here.

flowersdSo much activity with these branches and pollinators.

flowerscIt was also covered with Viceroy butterflies.  Lovely.

Hope you find some beauty in this heat – maybe looking out of a window to a favorite view.

“Skinny people are easier to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat cake.”  unknown

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