Cafe at the Ridge Gardens, Part 2

Lots of creativity in the gardens at the Ridge.

Displays on the long porch outside the Cafe include this old wash tub with an interesting mixture of succulents.

Not sure what the original purpose of this long wooden container was.  Looks old.  Anyone know?

Not a big fan of pink flamingos in the yard, especially in Texas.  But these glass ones are classier than the plastic ones usually seen.

Drawing a blank on this flower identification.  Anyone?

The gift shop was originally built as a storage building.

The gift shop displays some of its wares on the porch.  Cute chubby bumble bee.

Another building contains potting soils, fertilizers, etc.  I’ve been trying to figure out what the sign was painted on.  Looks like a hood but is tapered too much – maybe a race car.

Even a pile of rocks (which Central Texas has plenty of) can be spruced up.

An old colander makes a nifty planter.  Vincas or Periwinkles are a great annual for our hot summers.   They are so bright and cheery.

Old tire is considered a hillbilly planter of choice.  But it certainly has character.  This one has Bat-face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea Flamenco Samba), some Petunias, and Blackfoot Daisy.  Don’t know what the small purple flowers are.

Really sturdy and heavy picnic tables.

The grass is artificial.  We were told that liquids penetrate it, and that it is strong and long lasting.

Plenty of pots and succulents to choose from.

I was fascinated by these posts for the outside patio.

These tree trunks serve a purpose.

Molded to look like tree trunks, they are coolers to ice drinks for a gathering outside.

This has a Spanish mission look to me.  Very southwestern.

In the spaces between the flagstones, small succulents have been planted close to the edge of the walkway.  Lil Miss Lantana on the right with its pink blooms loves Texas sun.

Don’t know if this wishing well is a true well or not.  But it is iconic for garden lovers.

Birdbath makes a perfect miniature succulent garden.

Another old wash tub.  They’re hard to find without paying an arm and a leg for them.

Check out counter for garden purchases.

Just like at the grocery store checkout, before you pay out, more items to tempt you. Unusual containers that are already filled make it easy to take home a completed pot.

On the left is a Thorn of Crowns plant without the thorns.  So beautiful that I couldn’t resist.

Have an old broken mixer or one you don’t use?  Make it a planter.  Great imagination.

Great place to visit, especially for gardeners.

“You know you are a gardener when everything you see becomes a planter.”  unknown

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Native or Not

Defining and identifying which plants are native is not easy because, first of all, there is no definitive definition.

Wikipedia definition:  “Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants). Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions.”

Sometimes it is difficult to find natives for sale at nurseries.  This False Foxglove was growing along our county road, so I dug up a couple of clumps about four years ago.

Texas Native Plant Society defines natives as plants that were growing naturally here when the European settlers came or plants that were growing naturally in this state at the beginning of the Holocene Recent Epoch, which began about 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age.

Really?

Actually, in Texas we are lucky to have Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center because they have native plant sales twice a year.

Another way to get natives is from a friend or an acquaintance.  This plant came from a garden club sale.  It is Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) that was growing in Texas at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, and thus is considered native by some botanists.

Now, how does anyone know that?  Is there a notebook somewhere that has descriptions and drawings of this plant?

The feathery soft leaves are nice in small vases with small flowers.

This was also bought at a garden club sale.  I thought it was native but after some research, I believe it is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine).  It is a sterile, non-reseeding variety.

Looks like it will grow much taller than I realized.  The reason it was planted in this cattle feeder was to shade the “feet” of a Clematis vine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of “native plant” is “a plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention.” That definition also might apply to many “naturalized” plants that were introduced long ago, but are now thriving and spreading without human intervention.

Dripping with blossoms, the Yellow Lead Ball Tree is a pretty small multi-branched tree.

Crossvine or Trumpet Flower (Bignonia capreolata) is a sought-after vine because it is a vigorous grower and has tubular flowers that draws pollinators.

Don’t confuse this with Trumpet Creeper or Cow-itch Vine (Campsis radicans) which is invasive.

Plants that were introduced by man during the last three hundred or so years and that have adapted to our landscape and climate are referred to as “naturalized.”  Some of these are aggressive and are considered invasive or noxious.

Mexican Buckeye or Texas Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) has pink/white flowers while it is leafing out and bears these unusual seed pods.  In fall the leaves are supposed to turn yellow.  This one was planted in early February.

Texas Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus var. berlandieri)is a Texas Native that has needle-like foliage.

It thrives in rocky bar ditches.

Long swaths of Pink Evening Primrose or Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) along the highway makes me want to stop and get up close to them.

Simple, yet lovely.

Native Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) does not like to be watered.  These appear in flower beds but die out if over watered.

Ox-eye  or Margarita Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgarde) is considered by many to be a native but is actually native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The whole idea of native versus non-native is a hot topic right now in Texas.  Some people are offended by planting anything but natives.  But as the definitions show, that is not an exact science.  Others think that natives do not belong in urban settings.

Personally, I plant what will survive and do well in my region.  If I like something that won’t survive our winter, then I put it in a pot.  Then it can be moved into a shed.  My philosophy:   be practical and lighten up.

Sorry this is so long.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.  I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont.”  Lady Bird Johnson

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Summer Wildflowers

The spring flowers in the fields and byways are all gone.  But summer brings another show with equal beauty.  Some of these will survive into the hot months while others will disappear.

earlysummerThe bar ditches along our county road are filled with a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes of flowers.  The rocky, caliche, disturbed areas is where these wildflowers thrive.

earlysummer1I think this bright yellow primrose is a Western Primrose (Calylophus Hartweggii).  It grows low on the ground.

earlysummer2White Milkwort (Polygala alba) is small but attractive in a group.

earlysummer4A bouquet of Indian Blanket, Cut-leaf Groundsel, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

earlysummer5Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) usually have more shading on the petals than these do.

earlysummer7Before it gets too hot, Queen Anne’s Lace carpets the edges of the road.

earlysummer6Now, after these pictures were taken, they’ve already started to fall away.

earlysummer8

earlysummer9Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) will bloom into the summer and fall as will Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

earlysummeraLove the drive along this road.

earlysummerf

earlysummerhA lone Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) breaks the white span of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota).

earlysummeri

earlysummerbNot sure, but think these daisies are Engelmann’s Daisy (Engelmannia peristenia).

earlysummergSumacs growing full and filling in the roadside.

earlysummercTexas Bindweed’s (Convolvulus eqitans) small white flowers are 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ inches wide.  They aren’t noticeable unless one looks closely at the ground.

earlysummereBlackfoot Daisies (Melampodium leucanthum) are hardy little souls that form small rounded clumps.  I tried these in the yard but they really don’t want more water than nature provides.  They will bravely last until late fall.

earlysummerjAs I pull into our property, another sight of late spring, early summer appears – lots of baby calves.  The cattle is not ours but belong to a man who leases the pasture land.

earlysummerkCute.  Reminds me of Norman in ‘City Slickers’.

earlysummerlTall grass from all the rain almost hides the little ones.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

They’re Back

It’s that time when wildflowers start to pop up along the roadsides. Texans’ pride puff up.  What a joyous sight.

springwildflowersNothing says Texas wildflower like the native Bluebonnets.  Five species of Lupinus grow in Texas, and all have been designated as the state flower. The most common species is Lupinus texensis, the Texas bluebonnet, which starts flowering in mid-March.

springwildflowers3 As historian Jack Maguire so aptly wrote, “It’s not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat.  The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland.”

springwildflowers1Another Texas native, Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) has not fully opened yet, but the pink among the Bluebonnets is iconic.

Further up the slope is the lavender colored Prairie Verbena.

springwildflowers2

springwildflowers4Then, there are the many varieties of yellow flowers that cover the fields and bar ditches.  A reader suggests that these are Four Nerve Daisies

springwildflowers7Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) is a compact small plant that grows in hard soil.
springwildflowers8It doesn’t need or want much water, or do well in flowerbeds that receive TLC.

springwildflowers9As I’ve stated before on this blog, I need a primer course on native yellow flowers of Texas.  They’ve everywhere.

springwildflowersa

springwildflowerscI’ve heard this shrubby plant called Bee Bush.  But I’m not labeling it with any certainty.  It tends to grow along fence lines.

springwildflowers5Another mystery – the yellow flower covered fields in our area.  A group of us at Garden Club were discussing them.  No one knew their name.  Someone thought they might be a type of mustard, but someone else disagreed.

springwildflowers6The Midland-Odessa area in far West Texas labels itself the ‘Land of the Big Sky.’  To me, that title also belongs to us.

Can any Texas name any of the yellow wildflowers shown in this blog?

springwildflowersbThe shape of this small tree against the sky fascinated me.  Spring is all about new growth and savoring the world around us.

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world. The best land and best prospects for health I ever saw and I do so believe it is a fortune to any man to come here.” Davy Crockett

Goldthwaite, Texas Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens and Native American Interpretive Center in Goldthwaite, Texas, is not the type of garden most people conjure up when they think of a botanical garden.  It is a representation of the nature prairie that existed in the area at the time of the early native Comanches.

The gardens were the brain child of a non-Texan who moved to the area.  It was years in the planning and fund raising stages.

Goldthwaite GardenLast fall was their grand opening with Laura Bush as their main speaker.  The Center has affiliations with both the Smithsonian Museum and a group of Comanches in Oklahoma.  Some of them attended the grand opening and performed dances.

Goldthwaite Garden7This Visitor Center for the area was constructed by the Texas Highway Department.  Additional funds were raised by a couple of other groups.  The Highway Department architect worked with the Garden committee to design the building.

One big feature is the v shaped roof.  Rainwater collects in the center and drains down the chain into an underground concrete cistern.  Any watering of the gardens is from that cistern.

The gardens are entered through the building.  The most impressive part of the garden to me was the advance planning.  It was definitely done right.

Goldthwaite Garden1Scattered throughout the gardens are informative signs about the Comanches.

Goldthwaite GardenmOnly native plants from the area were used.  This is Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis Rivina humilis L.), which has scarlet fruit that birds love.

Goldthwaite Garden2Goldthwaite Garden8Designed to look like an ancient cooking berm, these rocks represent the rocks that wood fires were built on.  When the rocks cracked from the heat, additional rocks were placed on top creating a raised area.  Lots of shells are just below the ground in Mills County.  The natives used those as tools while cooking.

Goldthwaite GardencaThey also constructed ovens from rocks.

Goldthwaite GardenbWild gourds and squashes that were inedible raw, were cooked and eaten.  This shows what was in the center of the oven.

Goldthwaite GardennNative grains were ground with stones on flat rocks.

Goldthwaite Garden5

Goldthwaite GardenfOne of the disappointments in the gardens were the plant identification signs.  They have faded and are barely legible.  That probably surprised whoever choose them.

The architect and person who orchestrated the gardens was our guide.  But I don’t remember the name he gave for this plant.  Maybe Wooly Paperflower?

Goldthwaite Garden3

Goldthwaite GardenhThe wickiup design and construction show how the Indians were able to use the land but not leave a footprint.

Goldthwaite GardendThey were basically just shelter from the sun and rain.

Goldthwaite GardeneBuffalo Grass 609 is a low water usage ground cover.  Its blades are soft, flop over, and don’t necessarily need to be mowed.  This grass was only watered one time this summer.

Goldthwaite GardencA quick sun shelter.

Goldthwaite Garden4

Goldthwaite Garden9Plains Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthus) doesn’t need much water and in fact, will die with too much.  They grow well in rocky or in sandy soils.

Goldthwaite GardenaWater from the cistern flows into a small stream that wanders through the gardens.  The site is actually small – a little larger than one fourth of a block.  The excellent designed meandering trails circle through the gardens, making it feel larger.

Goldthwaite GardengNarrow-leafed Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata) blooms during the hot summer and into the fall.  It was used to treat sore throat and rattlesnake bites.

Goldthwaite GardenlTrees are strategically placed so that when they mature, they will block out the surrounding buildings and perhaps muffle the traffic noises.

Goldthwaite GardeniPokeberry (Phytolacca americana L.) has poisonous berries and roots, but the pink stems were eaten as greens.  However, the berries were not poisonous to birds.  The berry juice was used as a dye.

Goldthwaite GardenjCan’t remember the name of this plant, but I like it.

Goldthwaite Gardenp

Goldthwaite GardenkDraping across the rock is Texas Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora).  It can form thick mats in the yard and the long strands are easy to trip on.

The yellow flowers look like some kind of poppy or primrose.

Goldthwaite GardenoThe massive amounts of rocks brought into the site from the countryside are staggering.  All of work was done by the guy who gave us the tour and his four workers.  Wow.

Future plans include a three story museum building.  Already enough artifacts have been donated to just about fill it up.  Funds are being raised and grants sought.  All this has been accomplished by a small town with less than 2,000 citizens and a county of just about 5,000 people.  It truly is a grass roots project.

I guess the message is to dream big.

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
Shannon L. Alder

Rain, Rain, We Love Ya

If you’ve never lived in an area prone to drought, then this post might not mean that much to you.  However, for those of us who do, this is a praise to heavenly rain.

rainpondsMost of our tanks or ponds are full to capacity.  Hooray.  In Texas the ponds that have been dug are called tanks.  Every property out in the country needs several tanks because the hot summer dries them out.  Tanks provide water for cattle and wildlife as well as water for the volunteer fire departments.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

rainponds2This is a larger one.  It is not totally full, which is surprising since it usually gets the runoff from a ridge.  Runoff is vital for lakes and tanks in this area because there isn’t enough rainfall to fill them.

rainponds3Another benefit from the rain is the growth of grasses in the field.  All the wildflowers are icing on the cake.  This tiny little flower is about three fourths an inch across.  They are prevalent on our  land, but I don’t know their name.  Instead of groups of flowers, they pop up two or three together.

rainponds4This small tank was dug specifically for cattle to have access to water when gate to this area is closed.  When this tank is dry, water from a well fills a trough for the cows.

The wind makes it look like the surface of an ocean.

rainponds5I think these are Plains Coreopsis, which usually grow in large groups.

rainponds8The white flowers bent over by the wind are White Milkwort (Polygala alba).  Although they’re small, patches of them are attractive.

rainponds9Spring means Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) blooms.

rainpondsaPlains Black-foort Daisies (Melampodium leucanthus) is sometimes called Rock Daisy, for obvious reasons.

rainpondsbIt’s rare for us to have clusters of Indian Paintbrush (Gaillardia pulchella) on our property.   CORRECTION:  This is Indian BLANKET.   Don’t know where my head was when I wrote this.  The botantical name was correct.  Thanks to a reader for catching that.  Anyway, it’s nice to have several patches this year.  These are all growing in spots where grasses don’t grow, so they aren’t taking over pasture land.

rainpondscSure are pretty.

rainpondsd

rainpondseThis yellow flower (might be Four Nerve Daisy) has a really long stem with few leaves.  It has one or two blooms at a time.  The black centers laying on the ground at the end of stems (at lower left in picture) are spent flowers.  Waving in the breeze and growing in caliche, the sight of them reminds me of how sturdy some of these plants are.

rainpondsfgjpgMy favorite wildflower: Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) is called Sweet William around here.  It’s tough as nails, grows in cliche, rocky fields, and in pastures.  When it fills up a field, a sea of dark lavender is stunning.

rainpondshjpgAnother tank that will probably be dry by the end of summer.

rainpondsjpg.This is the same tank as the previous picture.  The wood on this dock was supposed to be a specially treated wood.  But the curling planks have always been a problem.

rainpondslpg.Spring also brings Prickly Pear Cactus blooms.  They are beautiful and their yellow flowers stand out in a field.

rainpondsmpg.Unfortunately, they spread like crazy and can make the land useless.

rainpondsoThe creek crossing before the road rises up toward our house has water.  Haven’t seen that in several years.

rainpondsnMore bright Indian Blankets.

rainpondsrtjpgThe silky fluff from the seed of Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  It was carded and spun like cotton and wool.  Milkweeds play an important role for Monarch butterflies.  They are the only plant used to lay their eggs.  Their caterpillars must have these leaves to eat.  There are several varieties of milkweed.  This is the one that is native here.

The large farms of the mid-west has wiped out most milkweeds, endangering the survival of monarchs.  Anyone who sprays herbicides on milkweeds contributes to the problem.

rainpondsrThe tank closest to our house.  The grass is over a foot tall.

rainpondsqIt was dug a couple of years ago and doesn’t hold water well.  The dead Walnut trees are the result of abuse to the roots while digging the tank.  Sigh.

We’re so grateful for the rains this month – almost 7 inches this May.  Wow.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”       Henry Ford