Garden “Bones”

“The “bones” of a garden are the elements that are permanent and that provide its structure: trees, shrubs, arbors, walls, trellises, walkways, and statuary or other sculptural elements. They represent the garden as it appears when the growing season ends, when the color and texture provided by blooming plant material is muted by snow and bare earth.”

The above quote explains what is meant by garden bones.  Click on the link to read more.

In this post, I’m only going to focus on a few living bones:  trees and large shrubs.

When we built the house 13 years ago, this was a pasture.  The only tree was a large Live Oak behind the backyard.

In this picture, the tallest tree is a Bur Oak on the east side of the house.  Eventually, it should shade a window in the morning.  Behind that is a Red Oak and then a Texas Ash, neither of which can be seen in this picture.

To the right in the background is a Cherry Laurel.  To the far right behind the house is an old, old Live Oak.  It’s probably a hundred years old.

In the front yard is a Chinkapin Oak.  There are a couple of trees behind it.

Really wish I knew what this bush is.  It was planted years ago.

During the winter the stems or trunks of this large bush reminds me of a water fountain.

Wind provides lots of motion.

Usually we cut the stems down to the ground in late winter.  Then leaves grow all the way up the stems.  This year that chore did not get done and the stems only have pom poms of leaves on the ends.  Interesting look.

Basham’s Party Pink  (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is one of the first Crapemyrtles to bloom each year.  It seems to me that white and pink ones always bloom earlier than deeper colored ones.

One of the tallest varieties of Crapemyrtles, Basham’s Party Pink can reach 30 to 40 feet.  This one is six years old.

Flowering trees are a great attribute in a yard, if only for a few weeks or months of the year.

Most of the Goldenball Leadtrees (Leguminosae Fabaceae) I’ve seen are only 8 to 10 feet tall.  But Texas A & M reports that they can reach 25 feet tall and wide.  Oh dear, this one will be extremely crowded if it gets that wide.

Although Desert Bird of Paradise (Erythrostemon gilliesii) is a tropical tree from South America, it has naturalized in Texas.

It’s hardy and many pollinators feast on it.

Vitex or Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has become favorite.  A native of China and India, it is naturalized throughout the southern U.S.

I’ve been told they bloom better and look better if pruned to maintain an 8 to 10 foot height.

What’s not to love about these striking flowers?  Plus, they perfume the air.

Generally, I prefer to zoom in on details of flowers.  But good bones are definitely the most important elements of a yard and garden.  As summer is upon us, I’m reminded how wonderful it is to have shade provided by trees in the yard.

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.”   Bill Vaughan

Winter Came Back

Last week old man winter snuck back when I wasn’t paying attention.

Ice covering Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) tree.

Ice on Yellow Lead Ball bush and Crape Myrtle.

The good news is that this winter event brought rain – over five inches.  Hip, hip, hooray.

The beautiful Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) looked really sad.

The weight of the ice on the branches was a concern.  But in a couple of days, it was melting, and the tree perked back up.

The Live Oak, too, was frosted with ice.

Another Chinese Pistache with ice.

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) with ice.  Okay, you get the picture.

Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) is a native flowering small tree.  The rebar post was put there when it was small to mark the spot to avoid with the mower.  Guess it’s time to remove it.

Ice caked around a red rose hip on a climbing rose.

The hills were covered with ice, and it wasn’t fit for man nor beast to be out.  A paraphrase of a W. C. Fields quote.

From inside where it was warm and cozy, it looked dreamy.  And I’m so thankful for the rain.

“Sometimes my greatest accomplishment is just keeping my mouth shut.”  Zane Baker

Ice Adorning Plants

Usually, there’s one ice event a year in northern and central Texas.  So, hopefully, we’d have had it for this year.  It was short lived, even though the temperatures stayed in the teens for several days and low 20’s for a couple of weeks.

Although the sun hasn’t risen very high, a Red Oak glistens.

A certain beauty comes with frosty, icy weather.  At least, it’s pretty from the inside of a warm house and not on the roads.

Rose bushes planted this year are in the lower right foreground.  Quite a shock to the system.

Plants low to the ground got a blast of water from the sprinkler system.  That sounds crazy, but our rainfall last year was two thirds of the average.  We need the moisture and didn’t know the temps were going to drop that low.

This frozen bush is Flame Acanthus.

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) bush still covered in seed clusters.

Chinapin Oak draped in icycles.

Don’t remember what this is, but love the jeweled look.

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) looks top heavy with ice but remained upright.

Showbiz Rose still had rose buds when the cold hit.

Ice doesn’t bother seed pods and leaves of Yellow Lead Ball Tree (Leguminosae Leucaena retusa). A sprinkler head close to this Crape Myrtle created a heavy coat of ice.

The bones of a Texas Ash and a smaller Post Oak are highlighted in ice.

In November we transplanted two climbing roses from their pots.  Look sad, but they’re sturdy and should survive.

In the yard, I use hardy plants that will survive our winter.  Risking tender plants that will freeze is crazy, so pots are used for those that I know won’t survive.  They do well in the heated shed.

Wherever you are this season, I hope the beauty of winter can be enjoyed however you please – inside or outside.

“Change is inevitable.  Progress is optional.”  Tony Robbins

A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

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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Early April Flowers

Night time temperatures are still in the lower 40’s, so it’s too early to get the more cold tender plants out of the shed.  But there are plenty of other things blooming to make spring gorgeous.

Roses are putting on a great show, even though there are still some weeds in the beds.

The red roses and white (actually they are yellow that fade to white) are both Knockouts.  The peachy roses are Oso Easy Paprika.  The tall bush in the back with pink flowers are Earth Kind.

About weeds:  gardening is hard and many of the results are out of our control due to weather.  So I think we should give ourselves a break.  It is almost impossible to get all chores done timely, especially if you don’t have help.  Gardeners are usually kind to other gardeners but hard on themselves.

On the other side of the house more roses are blooming like crazy.  This Katy Road is super hardy.  It was developed by Dr. Griffith Buck at Iowa State University to withstand the cold and long winters of the Midwest.  It was named Carefree Beauty.

In Texas, it has been known as Katy Road Pink because it was found on Katy Road in Houston.  Amazingly, it has proven to endure our hot, dry summers.

Large orange colored rose hips are produced from every flower.

This yellow florabunda has stayed small in bush size but produces lots of roses.

The Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgarees) have spread.  Several have been dug up and potted for garden club plant sales.  Some people don’t want them in their yards because they do spread.  I like the fact that they can become pass-a-long plants.

This rose (unknown) always knocks my socks off.

Two years ago I was given this Amaryllis for Christmas.  I had tried planting Amaryllis bulbs in a flower bed with so-so results.  So I decided to put this bulb in a larger pot and place it outside in a mostly shady spot during the spring, summer, and fall.  When it got cold, I put it in the heated shed.

The stalks got tall – almost 3 feet.  The bulb doubled in size.

The double blooms are fabulous.

Reblooming Irises are as dependable as sunshine in the desert.  In fact, I’m not sure how a person would kill bulb.  Maybe by drowning them.  They don’t require much water as the ones out in our field prove.

A muted mauve type color.

Ones with purple or solid purple are my favorite irises.

The Yellow Lead Ball tree is already covered with blooms and buds about to bloom.

This small tree has proven to be a winner because it doesn’t need good soil or much water.

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”  Emma Goldman

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Nice Cool Relief

Last week an inch and three quarters of rain brought some cooler temperatures.  It was a greatly needed relief for humans, animals, and plants.

Nice reprieve2This Golden-Ball Lead Tree (Leucana retusa) has struggled again, its second year, because some creatures (I suspect jackrabbits) strip and break its lower limbs.

Nice reprieve5But it recovered nicely the latter part of August.  It is a shrub or spindly tree that grows well in rock or caliche.  So it should feel right at home here.

Nice reprieve3The globe like flower is yellow but looks more golden with this early morning back light.

Nice reprieve4I like photographing back-light plants, so here’s another shot.  The books say Lead Ball blooms in April and May.  But here it is performing in September.  Maybe it will prove to be a spring and fall bloomer.

Nice reprieve1This vulture seems to be relaxing and enjoying the cool morning.

Nice reprieve6Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) tend to bloom year round since they are considered house plants.  But they do well outside during the warm months with filtered light and slightly dry soil.  Just beware of the thorns.

Nice reprieve7The Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) is slowly covering the new arbor.  I can’t wait to see the full coverage – maybe next year.

Nice reprieve8It blooms in spring and fall.

treeThis two year old Vitex Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has grown quite fast.  Vitexs are also called Hemp and Sage trees.  I need to cut off more lower limbs this winter.

Nice reprieve9Vitexs are native to India and China but have been adapted to this area for a long time.  Another common name is Monk’s Pepper, which comes from the old wives tale that in medieval times, monks made a potion from the berries that helped them maintain their vows of chastity.

Nice reprieveaVitex attract many pollinators.  The berries are still used in herbal remedies.

Vitex can grow up to 20 ft. tall with snarly trunks and branches.

Nice reprievebFor a long time, I assumed that Moon Flower (Ipomoea alba) would not survive our heat because the leaves are large and thin.  Then I saw one in garden an hour away from here.

Nice reprieveeSo I grabbed one this year at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center spring sale.  It has bloomed way more than I expected.

Nice reprievefIt is in a pot in mostly shade.  It’s looking a little tired right now, but has provided many large flowers with a morning glory shape.

Nice reprievecBecause it has grown larger than I expected, it will need to be upgraded to a larger pot next spring.

A garden presents wonderful surprises and joys.

“I changed my password everywhere to ‘incorrect.’ That way when I forget it, it always reminds me, ‘Your password is incorrect.'” unknown