Storybook Sculptures

Abilene, Texas, calls itself Storybook Capital of the World.  Scattered around the downtown area are sculptures of characters from children’s books as well as various other sculptures.

I’m starting with my least favorite:  Dino Bob from the book Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.

Never heard of this book.

The Man in the Moon is represented by a moon up on a tall pole.

Also, unknown to me.  Don’t give up.  It gets better.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stands outside the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature building.

Everman Park, beside the renovated train depot, contains the Dr. Seuss Sculptures.  A nice job of landscaping this area uses hardy Texas plants, like the New Gold Lantana in the picture.  This lantana is a hybrid and makes a 6 to 8 foot ground cover.

Although this isn’t Dr. Seuss, it’s at the park entrance.  Santa Calls sculpture depicts three children who travel to the North Pole.  Santa sent a flying machine called Yuletide Flyer.The beloved Cat in the Hat turns a rainy day into unexpected fun for children.

Some  small Magnolia trees had blossoms.  It’s unusual to see Magnolias in Central Texas, but this is probably a Little Gem Magnolia, which is a late bloomer, smaller than most Magnolias, and survives in zones 5 – 9.

The Lorax speaks for the trees and warns of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.

Yurtle the Turtle, who claims to be the king of the pond, climbs on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon.  A good message to us all not to feel more important than others.

In spite of derogatory remarks in the news recently about Dr. Seuss, I think he had an important role.  He got many kids interested in reading and learning and did it in an extremely fun way.

The Grinch tries to sabotage Christmas in Whoville.

Another small Magnolia surrounded by Knockout Roses, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and a Boxwood hedge.  The roses may be Drift Roses, which are a type of Knockouts.

Russian Sage is a good choice for arid areas.  It has a lovely scent and is hardy.  It does spread, so these will become overcrowded at some point.

Sam, I am, encourages everyone to try Green Eggs and Ham.

In the second book to feature Horton, Horton Hears a Who, he once again becomes the protector of a helpless creature.  A small piece of dust that talks to Horton asks for help.  Even though he is ridiculed and harassed by the other animals, Horton states that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. SeussSave

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Gray/Silver Foliage

When I think of my favorite plants, flowers always come to mind.  But there are advantages to more muted plants.

Dusty Miller or Silver Dust (Centaurea Cineraria) originates from an island off of Italy.  It’s an old fashioned plant grown in the thirties, forties, and fifties by rural people.

Silver gray plants provide a shimmer or cool calmness to the landscape.  This one was bought in the spring and has exploded.  Many plants with gray foliage, including Dusty Miller, grow well in full sun.

The individual leaves are not that striking.

But when silver/gray plants are framed by a background of dark green, an interesting contrast occurs.  Sunlight lights up the silver color and makes them a focal point.

Globe mallow or Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has round, cupped orange flowers in the spring.  But its foliage is also worthy of attention.

Its ruffled leaves have a different form than most gray plants.

Native to the drier regions of North and South America, in the Southwest of the U.S., sheep and goats graze on them.

When purchased, this was labeled Prairie Sage, but I haven’t been able to positively identify it.  It doesn’t bloom, has a tendency to flop down from the middle, and keeps most of its foliage during the winter.

The silver color is attractive but not sure I would recommend it.

This was given to me, unidentified.

Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is aromatic and has a wonderful soft texture.  My only compliant is that it tends to become misshapen.

But I do love the look and touch of it.

My favorite silver/gray plant is Powis Castle Artemisia (Artemisia arborescens x absinthium) because it is soft, hardy, and can grow in sun or filtered sun, although I think it does better in mostly sun.

A versatile plant that fits in most landscapes.  This one is in a pot, but it does well in the ground.

This is not an extensive list of gray plants, just some that I have grown.

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  Arthur YorinksSave

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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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Oppressive Blanket of Heat

Just a week or two of high temperatures with no rain can transform a pretty garden to dry crusty leaves, dead flowers, and limp stems and foliage.

For the first half of July, everything still looked pretty good.  The Vitex on the left had finished blooming and the Pink Coneflowers still had some flowers.  I recently pruned the Vitex in the hopes that it will bloom again this fall.

Hardy Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) last a long time:  from mid spring until mid July, depending on the weather .  Their refreshing look makes me happy.  But everything has its limits.  100 plus temperatures and dry heat with no relief buries us all.

This year a whole swarth of them came up among the Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).

The Crinums bloomed longer than usual this year.  But now the flowers are gone and the long leaves are looking ragged.

Enjoyed them while they were here.

This Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta cayennensis, S. indica) has struggled this year.  It receives some morning sun but doesn’t get direct sun after about 11 am.

The routine now is for me to get out early, just after the sun rises, and water pot plants every other day.  Because I have so many, it takes over an hour.  Gardening obession has gotten a little out of hand.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri has been changed to Oenothera lindheimeri, according to Wikipedia) still looks pretty good, although it has thinned out a little since this picture was taken.

Butterflies and bees love Gaura.  It always amazes me how the pollinators get anything out of some small flowers.

Pink Gaura also is surviving the heat.

I have several Daturas or Jimsonweeds (Datura stramonium) in the shade, so they are doing well.  Have to be out at night or early morning to catch their lovely white blossoms.

Purple Heart is also in the shade most of the day, so it is thriving.  I have mistakenly identifed Purple Heart  as Wandering Jew in some posts.  A friend pointed out that they are not the same plant at all.

Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) marches on.  I don’t think anything can kill it.  In fact, I have been trying to kill some that is encroaching on a rose bush.  It took multiple applications of Round Up before there was any noticeable damage.

Mexican Petunias love the heat.  Can’t say that I agree with them.  Hope you live in cooler temperatures or can stay inside and enjoy A/C most of the time.

Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.”  Edwin KeithSave

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Hooray for Hardy

Plants that border on the aggressive can survive in this hard clay and caliche soil and endure the droughts.  Out with the finicky plants.  But I admit that I sometimes fall prey to those pretty flowers in the nursery that I know will not survive here.

Growing beside a county road, this Square Bid Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus)  is a good example of surviving some of the worst conditions.

Also known as Drummond’s Sundrops, that name fits.

Actually, in a flowerbed, it doesn’t spread that much.  Maybe because it gets regular water.  The one on the left was bought this year because the older plant wasn’t filling in the space.

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is a zone 5 – 10 perennial.  Other common names are Scarlet Rosemallow, Crimson Rosemallow, and Wild Red Mallow.

Actually, Star Hibiscus is native to most southern states.  Some people resent that Texas was added to the name.  Guess we were just the first to claim it and name it.  Texans are not known as shy.

Although mine doesn’t bloom frequently, it’s a sight to be behold when it does.

Beach Vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) spreads to hold soil in place.  It is native to seashores around the Pacific.  It was an unidentified plant when I bought it, so it was a surprise to find out its natural environment.

This one is mostly in the shade, so maybe that keeps it confined.

It probably blooms better in full sun.  Ah, well, live and learn.  I certainly don’t plan to dig it up.  It is hardy and entrenched.

American Germander or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) from the mint family is a volunteer plant.  It was probably a gift from birds.

Several plants came up among Pink Guara.

Two of my favorite super hardy and dependable flowers include Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Strawberry globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa).  In my opinion, they are absolute musts for gardens.  They are heavy reseeders, so once you put in a few plants, there will be plenty to share.

Love the color, the shape, and the fact that pollinators flock to them.

Hope your garden is blessing your life.

“Dance like no one is watching.  Email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”  unknownSave

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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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Texas Independence

Washington on the Brazos is the place where Texans declared their independence from Mexico.  We visited this site when we were in nearby Brenham last November.

A replica of the original building gives a feel for the gathering of delegates.

While settlers were escaping from Santa Anna’s army and the battle at the Alamo was raging, men gathered to decide the fate of their homes and lives.  The convention lasted for 17 days; the representatives wrote a new constitution and organized an interim government as they created the Republic of Texas.

“Fellow-Citizens of Texas: The enemy are upon us. A strong force surrounds the walls of the Alamo, and threaten that garrison with the sword…Now is the day, and now is the hour, when Texas expects every man to do his duty. Let us show ourselves worthy to be free and we shall be free.”
Henry Smith, Washington, TX – March 2, 1836

 

Nearby is a living history farm.  A display was set up at the ticket booth entrance. The green Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is not an edible fruit, in my opinion.  I’ve only known them as Horse Apples.

Some sprigs of purple heart add a little color.

On the same table is a basket of gourds.  These were used for drinking cups, ladles, and other vessels.

This fence style was probably brought to Texas with the early settlers from other states that came with Stephen Austin.

This dogtrot or dog run house has all the characteristics that define it.  A wide open space provided a way for wind to blow through to cool the house in the hot summers.  Two fireplaces heated the two rooms on each side in the winter.

The house belonged to Dr. Anson Jones, the first president of the new republic.  It was built in 1844 and was moved to this location in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration.

The Jones family lived in the house when it was on a farm in Brazoria.  He, his wife, their four children, his wife’s four half-sisters, and slaves lived on the farm.

Today this farm represents the lifestyle of the early settlers.

The master bedroom is decorated to look like it would have in those times.

A baby bed is set up beside the bed.

And a drawer at the end of the bed could sleep another young child or be used as storage.

On the fireplace mantle is a picture of Dr. Jones.  Not sure why it is covered with cheese cloth.

The second bedroom shows a chamber pot under the bed.

Other indoor conveniences include toiletry items and a wash basin.

The outside kitchen prevented the risks from cooking fires and kept heat in the summer away from the house.

The cook was preparing sweet potatoes for lunch.

The sweltering heat of summer and the bitter cold of always comes to my mind when I see how the pioneers lived.  Then I remember that millions of people today live in worse conditions.

How blessed we are to live in this time and in this place.

“The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.”  Ovid

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A Healthy Garden

The day we were in the community garden in Menard, butterflies were everywhere – one sign of a healthy garden.

gardenmenard6A Southern Dogface Butterfly is enjoying the Zinnias.

gardenmenard5Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) has a wonderful velvety texture and butterflies gravitate to them.

gardenmenardaA Pipevine Swallowtail also like the Zinnias.

gardenmenardbWhat is it about butterflies that is so spellbinding?  The fact that they are fragile?  Always in motion?  Or just plain gorgeous?

gardenmenardThis garden has many purposes besides looking pretty.  It provides raised beds for citizens to rent for growing vegetables.

gardenmenard1Some okra pods look ready to be picked.

gardenmenard7Our group of Master Gardener students was here specifically to learn about water conservation.  In a demonstration, Billy Kniffen pours water into four different plastic boxes on top of a rack.  The water then flows down into other boxes on the lower shelf that have drain pipes.  The purpose of the demo is to show how much water pours out of the pipe and how quickly it empties out.

What is planted in the ground makes a difference for water absorption.  The bin on the left has native prairie grasses growing, which allows the rainfall to soak in, and the long roots of the grasses leads the water further into the ground, replenishing the water table.

gardenmenard8The next container is turf sod or grass like what is used in most yards, which allows some runoff.

Then there is a container that has very little growing in it.  Bare ground becomes hard and doesn’t absorb water, which then washes away even more soil.

This shelter and some other small sheds have gutters that direct rainwater into water storage tanks.

gardenmenard9The last container has a house.  Sponges are placed around the house.  Once they have soaked up water, then it will gradually seep out.  He suggested having water permeable hard surfaces to prevent water runoff.  Replacing concrete with other materials like gravel would help.  There are products that have a strong enough surface for walking or even parking a car, but have holes that allow water to pass through.  Those have been in use in Europe for many years.

Manufactured permeable blocks that look like concrete are available, but are extremely expensive. Hopefully companies will come up with ways to produce more affordable materials.

gardenmenardcLarge ornamental grasses similar to the native prairie grasses hold water and are good choices for landscaping.

gardenmenarddAnd of course, every garden needs pretty plants like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii).

Enjoy the butterflies in your garden now before cold weather comes.

“You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”  unknown

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Eden

A small town in the midst of scrub brush in flat West Texas has a garden, which was the result of one man’s labor.

eden01The Garden of Eden has some surprising elements.  It’s been two years since I last visited, and it has changed some.

eden1A large plastic tank has recycling water – nice soothing sound.

eden2An old milk can is used as the spout vessel.  I’m surprised that it hasn’t rusted out.

eden3Flame Acanthus (Aniscanthus quadrifidus var. quadrifidus var. wrightii) is scattered throughout the garden.  Once established, it’s very hardy.

eden4No surprise that hummingbirds and butterflies visit the tubular flowers.  It is drought tolerant and even does well in poor soils.

eden5Coral Honeysuckle or Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) has become a bramble beside the metal archway where it was originally trained to grow.

eden7A banana tree growing in West Texas.  Hard to believe that it can withstand the dry heat or the winter temperatures.  Yet, here it is producing bananas.

eden6This was a volunteer plant that came up and no one has been able to identify it.

eden8Lots of pretty grasses.  Although many ornamental grasses last only one year, this one must be perennial.

edenaNative Morning Glory grabs hold of lots of bushes and intertwines in the stems and leaves.  Here it is growing among Mexican Petunias.

edenbThe yellow flowers are Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans), which is a beloved plant that is native to far West Texas in the Big Bend area.  It is a tall shrub with gorgeous flowers that is drought tolerant and abides limestone soils.

However, cold winters have done mine in.  But I keep trying to save one.

eden02Although this garden has been turned over to the city and depends on volunteers for maintenance, the man who planted it is still very much involved.

edencTypical agave with Mexican Petunias behind them.  Agaves are not all that cold hardy, so I’m surprised to see them here.

edendTangerine Beauty Crossvine (Bignonia capreolate ‘Tangerine Beauty’) is a perfect fit for this part of Texas.  It is cold hardy, endures the hot summers, and is pretty, to boot.

edeneTexas Sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum) is a common sight in pastures and is extremely hardy.  It has sharp edges, so it should not be planted close to walkways.

edenfAnother hardy plant, Salvia Greggii Red Sage has a pleasant scent, especially when brushed as one passes by it.  It is a semi woody plant that is native to Texas and Mexico.  It thrives in the heat but does not tolerant wet feet.

edengAs a soft plant for touching, Artemesia in the Mugwort family is a wonderful choice.  They are grown for their silvery-green foliage and for their wonderful aroma.

edenhMore Yellow Bells

edeniFour O’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were grown by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental purposes.  They spread profusely.  Where each black seed falls, a new plant will spring up.  The seeds can be seen in the picture where spend flowers have fallen.

edenjPalo Verde Trees (Parkinsonia aculeata) are desert trees that have pretty yellow flowers in the spring.  Maybe the mild winters the last few years have allowed this one to get a foothold.
edenkA clever tin man that I would like to duplicate but finding the right size cans could be a problem.

Although most of the plants in this garden are what one would expect to see in this area, it seems lush with the paths winding through tall shrubs and full plantings.

“Knowledge is knowing what to say.  Wisdom is knowing when to say it.”  unknown

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San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Last week I was in San Antonio for a two day plant seminar.  On the third day we had a tour of the Botanical Gardens.

sagardens014The gardens opened in 1980, so the trees are mature and the garden is well established.  It has an old world feel to it.

sagardens1This is a Barbados Cherry bush (malpighia emarginata) that has  matured.  Compare it to the puny little one I have in a pot.

sagardens3And there are the red berries I was expecting to see.

sagardens2Little Ruby Alternanthera (Alternanthere ‘Little Ruby’) is a smaller, more compact version of the traditional Joseph’s Coat.  It is perennial in warmer areas and can be grown in full sun or light shade.

sagardens4Bamboo Muhly in the back is cold tolerant to zone 8.  With airy, light frothy branches, it is pretty in the wind.

sagardens8Bamboo Muhly works well next to drought tolerant plants.

sagardens5Everyone’s  favorite:  Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) needs a more tropical climate than we have here.  Since San Antonio is further south,  many tropical plants can survive there.

Caesalphinia pulcherrima means very pretty.  And it is that.

sagardens6Can a plant be more cheerful than this one?  The colors are so bright that it’s visible from a distance.

sagardenscA large group of plants in different size pots made a bold statement.  While I didn’t recognize many of the tropical ones, at the bottom, the light green is a annual potato vine.

sagardense

sagardens9

 

sagardensdThe green plant in the center with small red flowers on long stems is Red Potterweed or Pink Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis).

sagardensbWith zone envy, I had to remind myself over and over that I am happy with the plants that I can grow.

sagardensa

sagardens9

sagardensRight off the bat, this bush grabbed my attention.  I learned that it is a Blue Potterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) from South Florida.

sagardens7The thickness of this Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) convinced me that I should cut mine back in the spring and trim it throughout the growing season so it will branch out more.

sagardensekkYellow Jacobinia (Justicia aurea) grows in full shade to light shade and is not cold hardy below zone 8.

sagardensfA really cute little gardener statute.

sagardensgWith a huge tropical plant in the center, this display will lead us further into the tropics.

The plant in the foreground might be Black and Blue Salvia.  Not sure about the yellow flowers id.

The next post will be in the lush part of the gardens.

“This is maturity:  to be able to stick to a job until it’s finished; to do one’s duty without being supervised; to be able to carry money without spending it; and to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”  unknown