Convenient Containers

Container Gardening has become all the rage.  It is rightfully touted as useful for small spaces, like apartment balconies and as a way to make a statement.  But there is a real knack to combine plants to make it artful, which I don’t seem to possess.

I use flowerpots for totally different reasons.  Since there is little shade in my yard, I use pots to place plants in some shade.  Under trees is one of my few options, and since it is not healthy for tree roots to have the amount of water that flowers need, I don’t want to put them in the ground there.

Another use of pots is demonstrated with these Petunias.  Pots are an easy way to use the color of annuals wherever you need it.

Deciding where to put plants sometimes requires some time to think of the right place or to prepare a flowerbed for them.  Phil Colson of Atlanta says, “For their first three years in the garden, keep perennials on ‘roller skates,’ moving them around until you find the spot they like best.  Then just leave’em alone.”  This quote comes from Passalong  Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing.

These Balloon Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) came from my mother’s yard.  I’ve had them before in the ground here.  But that spot was either flooded or dry as a bone, so eventually, they died.

Sedum is another plant that needs shade, so I put them on the covered porch that gets filtered sun.

As I have confessed before, I am guilty of buying plants with no place prepared to put them.

Leaving plants in pots until you have the right spot for them can go on indefinitely.  These three plants:  Salvia Greggi, Oso Easy® Honey Bun Rose, and Ligustrum have been in these pots for at least three years.  It is amazing how long plants can be in pots before they become root bound.

This Mock Orange (Philadelphus x virginalis ‘Minnesota Snowflake’) is shown here in a pot, but actually made it into a flowerbed in just months.  It is called mock because it has a citrusy smell but, of course, is not an orange tree.

I found Blue Mist Spiraea or Bluebear ‘Dark Knight’ shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis) and am excited because  butterflies love Blue Mistflower (Coelestinum).  The flowers look alike.

This is zoned down to 5, so I plan to get this in the ground, eventually.  It is a woody perennial that should get about 5 feet tall and wide.

Still trying to decide where to put this Ragin’ Cajun Ruellia or Texas Petunia (Ruellia elegans), but it will probably be permanently in a pot.  It should endure the heat but not the cold.

Another reason I use pots is that I adore lots of plants that are not cold hardy and thus have to be moved inside for the winter.  Actually, I’m not sure how this Foxglove will perform here, but the color of the flowers were irresistible.

There are no rules on how large a “pot” can be.  Cattle feeders are poplar for lots of uses here.

Here Yellow or Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum (DC.) A. Gray protects the roots of a vine.  This is a hardy Texas native.

Clematis vines need feet in shade and the rest of the vine in the sun. Jackman clematis (Clematis x jackmanii) is a perennial flowering vine hardy from zone 4 – 9.

Thanks for reading this blog.  Your comments encourage me and help me learn.

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it is accepted by the majority.”  Rick Warren

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That’s Odd

The biggest anomaly this year is the weather.  So far, we’ve only had three days of 100 or 100+ degrees.  It’s August!  That is so odd that everyone talks about the beautiful weather all the time.

Most areas around us have had several rains.  We have not, but there have been many cloudy days.

Nice summer, indeed.

oddSeveral times when I have gone into the shed, a lizard would be in the bottom of a bucket.  He must has have fallen from the ceiling.  I would dump him into the yard, but there he would be again the next day.  I don’t know if it was the same one or not.  If so, he’s a slow learner.

odd2One day from my kitchen window, I saw a 5 to 6 foot snake slithering across the grass and climbing into a tree.  By the time I could react and find my camera, he was already in the higher branches of a small Red Oak.

odd3I could never find his head for a photo.

odd4Just a Bull snake, I think.  I hope.

odd5Why is this scene strange?  Because it reminded me of a green idyllic meadow.  Usually, the grasses are dry like straw.  But here the yellow is wildflowers.  “Cows are in the meadow”… type photo.

odd6The purple Balloon flowers or Chinese Bell Flowers have not bloomed much this year.  Many of the ones that opened were white.  For the past eight years, they have been heavy bloomers.  Don’t know what happened.

odd7This is like one of those pictures where one’s eyes have to adjust and focus by staring to see the image.  The heads of Dill (Anethum graveolens)  are full of seeds.  Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar are supposed to feed on dill, although I have not seen them.

odd8Mowing around a flower bed of Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) brings on a flurry of rising butterflies swirling around me.  The flowers are small but obviously a favorite of Viceroys.

oddcThe compost heap behind a shed is producing vines.

The blue lid from a barrel is to cover food scraps and discourage racoons who often climb over the wire barrier.  Unfortunately, if they want to move the lid, they can.

odd9There are two different kinds of vines.  Last year we had canteloupe grow here.

oddbA Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) plant found its way here and is blooming.

oddaThis one looks like it is producing yellow summer squash.

I don’t often remember to pour water on the decaying compost.  But when I see the vines, it reminds me to do so.

odddWhy is this mule sniffing or eating a small cedar?  Don’t know.

praying mantisThis Praying Mantis appears to be in the process of molting, which they do several times during their lifetime.

snyderWhat is this plant, you ask.  This photo was taken in West Texas.  Those are actually plastic stems from an artificial plant.  Given the fact that watering is severely rationed, it seems like an interesting solution.

“A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”    Old cowboy adage

This and That Blooming

The milder and wetter summer here has been a boon to flowers.  By mild, I mean that the highs are in the 90’s rather than the usual 100 plus.  Usually by mid July, everything would be shriveling up.

acanthus2This Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var wrightii) is still sprouting flowers every day.  It’s also known as a Hummingbird bush and Mexican Flame.

Flame Acanthus is native from west and south-central Texas into northern Mexico.  It is named for Charles Wright,  botanical collector, who collected extensively in Texas from 1837-1852.  He also collected in Cuba and his native Connecticut.

acanthusFlame Acanthus is a deciduous shrub that blooms from summer to the end of fall.  It dies in the winter and new shoots come up in the spring.

balloonEven a few Balloon Flower or Chinese Bell Fowers blossoms are opening.  Balloon Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) bloom consistently every year.  I just need to remember to deadhead them more often because they won’t bloom without that.

bluemistbutterfliesThe Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii) are just coming into their own and attracting butterflies like honey draws flies.  Grow it in full sun where it thrives, and they will come.

gold lantanaGold Lantana brightens its corner.

gold lantana3New Gold Lantana is a Texas Superstar Plant, which means it’s drought tolerant and survives many different soil and weather conditions.

The older varieties of Lantanas are hardy but are considered weeds because the birds eat the seeds and spread them.  Also, they tend to be tall and lanky and drop their flowers after rains.

The new improved varieties have been sterilized.  They bloom profusely without the berries and spread out.  They are an asset to the garden.  Just keep the spreading characteristic in mind when planting.  Another bonus:  all Lantana is considered deer resistant.

gaurafullEach morning the wind blows through this spreading White Gaura.  It provides a good morning wave and makes me chuckle.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) is also called Lindheimer’s Beeblossom.  It is a perennial native to the U.S.  The four petal white flowers open early in the morning.  I’ve read that the flower fragrance smells like cat urine.  I don’t really detect any smell.

gauraThe buzz of the bees on the Gaura was loud when I was up close photographing them.  A few landed on me but took off with a shake of my hand.  These bee were constantly on the move.  Near the top of the picture one is visible.  These are smaller bees than the bumble bees on some other bushes in the yard.

This species is named after Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879), who is often called the Father of Texas Botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector in Texas.  He was a German immigrant, who came as a political refugee.  Lindheimer is credited with the discovery of several hundred plant species.

whitegaura2So delicate.

Remember the lyrics:
“Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet Me.”

It’s a joy to look out my windows and be greeted by all the flowers.

“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”                John Ruskin

Blooming Now

Old friends return each year when perennials bloom.

oxalis2This Oxalis (Oxalis regnellii atropurpurea) has been in the same container for several years.  It dies down each winter, and I add some soil on the top in the spring before the plant returns and starts blooming.  Works for me.  So far, it’s okay with the plant.

oxalis5One of the characteristics of this plant is the three pronged pinwheel shape.  That’s the reason both the purple and the green varieties are nicknamed Shamrocks.

oxalis7Oxalis’ delicate pink flowers against the background of the purple leaves demand a second look.  Oxalis needs filtered light but no harsh direct sun.

balloonflowersBalloon flowers have grown in this spot for four or five years.  They don’t like to be transplanted, so it’s best to plant them where you want them to stay.  They are also well behaved, in that, they don’t stray into their neighbor’s territory.  Actually, I would like them to spread a little more and a little faster.

These get quite a bit of direct morning sun, but no afternoon sun.

gladvaseGladiolas of several shades of red, yellow, white, and light purple have provided many bouquets for the house.

gladThe white edging and the slightly different shape of this one confuses me.  Now, I can’t remember if I transplanted some, and they metamorphosed a little.  Or if someone gave me a different variety of bulbs.  Guess it doesn’t matter.  They are a nice little change.

“Think about a seed.  Once it lands, it’s stuck.  It can’t move to find better soil, moisture or sunlight.  It’s able to create every part of itself to grow and reproduce with the help of air, water and sun.”   David Suzuki

Balloon Flower

This is such a pretty flower and very tough, even though it looks delicate.  And the amazing part is that it takes the Texas heat.

Platycodon grandiflorus is a Greek word that means a broad bell.  But it is actually native to Asia and is known there as Chinese Bell Flower or Japanese Bell Flower, depending on the country where it is grown.  In the US it is commonly called  Balloon Flower based on the shape of the unopened bud.

This perennial needs well drained soil.  The small group I have gets morning through mid-afternoon sun.  The stems can grow as tall as 18 inches.  The foliage shoots do not come up until late spring.  It’s easy to not recognize them. The first year after I had planted them, I pulled some as weeds because I didn’t  remember they were there.

They start blooming in mid June.  But they bloom the rest of the summer and into the fall if they are watered and deadheaded.  Both of these small chores are necessary.

The flowers don’t reseed very well.  I planted three about six years ago.  Now there are only seven plants.  Every year I plan to plant more but haven’t done it yet.  They don’t transplant very well, either.

They are a bright, cheery sight from the window over my kitchen sink.  I recommend this easy care and lovely plant.

“Gardening is a kind of disease.  If it infects you, you cannot escape it.”  Lewis Gannit