Autumn or Summer?

After weeks of cool, rainy weather, it’s back to hotter days and sunshine.  As we transition from summer to autumn, the plants and trees seem to be confused by the mixed message.

Some Hardy Hibiscus flowers appeared after rain.

And a few Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have flowered, although they look a little anemic.

Queen Butterflies continue to feed on the blossoms still on the Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  And behind that, purple flowers on Mexican Petunia still hang on.

But other plants, like this Firebush (Hamelia patens) are showing Autumn color.  It’s not winter hardy here, so it will go inside.

All the flower clusters on this Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea x moonshine) had died, but the other day, new flowers were glowing in the bright sun.

Trees are the biggest evidence of fall color.  This Red Oak has never looked this red before.  I know it takes a combination of rain and cool weather in certain amounts and a certain amount of time for leaves to change color.  I guess those colder rainy days did the trick.

This Mexican Flame vine is supposed to love the heat and bloom away during the summer.  However, it seems to prefer less heat than advertised and definitely enjoys extra water.

Petunias have always seemed fragile to me, but they have proved to be very hardy and resilient with filtered light.

Chinese Pistachio always has some orange color during the fall.  The leaves of the Eve’s Necklace to the left are turning yellow.

Several rose bushes, like this Double Delight are still producing gorgeous flowers.  This year some of the bushes have been stripped by a brown caterpillar.  I didn’t realize this until too late.  Most of those bushes are David Austin roses.  It’s all a mystery to me.

This small Shantung Maple tree struggled for many years to live during our extremely hot summers.  Each year it holds its leaves a little longer.  Most of the leaves from the upper branches are now on the ground.

Rock Rose (Pavonia Malvaceae) and Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) still have flowers.  Both of these plants are so hardy – perfect for our area.

Lovely Dianthus blooms a long time.  Of course, this one would have more flowers if I was diligent about deadheading.

Surprisingly, African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa hasn’t suffered from some colder nights.  All of these tropical or semi-tropical plants will have to go inside soon.

Looking out into the fields, a bright spot of color is unexpected among all the dead brush.  This Sumac is from the Rhus family.  Some Sumacs are poisonous, but I don’t know if this variety is.

In another direction, some leaves are turning.  The full pond is a welcome gift from all the recent rains.

Don’t you love this time of the year!

“When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.”  Minnie Aumonier

Walk on the Wild Side

Boerne offers the beauty of central Texas, caves, and nature al natural.

Cibolo Nature Center offers many different experiences.  At the beginning of the trailhead that wanders through the wild areas is a stone replica of tracks of a giant reptile.

The Acrocanthosaurus lived in the Crtaceous Period about 100 million years ago.  The original tracks were removed for safe keeping and replaced with an exact replica.

The Texas Native Prairie Trail reminds people how important the tall grass prairies are to the central plains, and that they are an endangered ecosystem.

Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) has popped up among the grasses.

Poverty Willow (Baccharis neglecta) sways in the wind.  Although it looks totally untouched, this prairie is actually managed with controlled burns and is used for research.

This looks like Common Wild Petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).  If that’s what it is, a couple of petals have sheared off of each flower.

Many types of grasses grow in this pocket prairie including big Bluestem, Indian grass, and Switch grass.
The Woodlands trail provides shade from large oaks.  This could be a Four O’Clock ( Mirabilis jalapa).
Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) is so named because a few degrees under freezing, the dead stems split at the base and exude a thin, curling shaving of ice.
The Cibolo Creek runs through the property and provides a Marshland trail.  As the shoes indicate, a young mother and her children crossed over to the marshland.  The crossing looked iffy for me with poor balance, so we skipped that part.  Plus, we were both overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.
This looks like Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea) found growing in limestone soils.
Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) is a bright flower that stands up tall on its stem (about 18 inches).  The tall dome is usually black/brown, but has already lost its seeds and now has a white top hat.
Closer to the Visitor Center is a small garden with hardy plants.  Rosemary has a few blooms left.
Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinumare) are usually covered with butterflies.  These are smaller, probably because they don’t receive water, except from rain.
There are a couple of caves near Boerne.  We visited Cave Without a Name, which is on private property, but open to the public.  This picture shows the original entry that was discovered when a farm animal became stuck in it.
The cave is a U.S. National Natural Landmark.
Thankfully, it now has concrete stairs leading down into the cave.  A few Tricolored Bats
(Perimyotis  subflavus) inhabit the cave.  They are smaller than the more common Mexican Free Tails found in Texas and don’t live in colonies.
 
The cave went unnoticed until a couple of guys during prohibition thought it was a good spot to produce moonshine.
It was officially opened by the land owner in in 1939.  He held a state wide naming contest.  A young boy said that it was too beautiful to have a name and thus, won the $250 prize.
A constant temperature of 66 degrees makes it comfortable to visit.  Cavers have mapped out over 2.7 miles of caverns.
Six large rooms with many different formations are part of the guided tour.
The cave is subject to flooding when heavy rains occur.
An hour tour is the perfect length for most people.
If you’re looking for a get-away week-end and live in Texas, I recommend Boerne and its attractions.  The shopping is good and not nearly as crowded as some of the other Hill Country touristy towns.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

Community Garden

The pictures in this post were taken at a Community Garden in the small town of Menard.  There are raised beds that can be rented for growing vegetables.  The garden is also used to teach Jr. Master Gardeners. They have a separate section with raised beds for them.

A large section of the garden contains different bushes, flowers, and vines.  This is a type of Salvia.

The flowers on Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) have a velvet look and feel.  The problem is that it needs warmer winters.  So, alas, it freezes back when I try to grow it.  But it is a gorgeous plant.

Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana) also needs more tropical growing conditions.

The unique flowers have the paper-thin look of Bougainvillas.  The actual flower is the white part.

Zinnas are an economical way to bring color into the garden.  So easy to grow.

A must for Texas gardens:  Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii.).  Queen Butterflies flock to it.

Morning Glory Tree (Ipomoea carnea) loves our heat but not the freezing winter times in my area.

The rains have made it difficult to keep up with weeding.  Since this garden is manned by volunteers, it’s easy to see how it’s possible to be crowded with plants growing unchecked.

One couple teaches the Jr. Master Gardeners and takes care of this garden.  They recruit volunteers whenever possible.  What a heart for their community.

Another tropical plant is Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  Their bright color certainly steals the scene and makes us all drool for one.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned that no matter how much you want some plants, if they won’t survive the winter, forget them.

Just look at that flower that screams the Caribbean Islands.

Now back to a solid performer.

Esperanzass (Tecoma Stans) are coveted for their beautiful yellow tubular flowers.  Mine always freeze.  Some people say they have better luck than I do.

And what would a Texas garden be without a pepper plant.  Not sure which one this is.

Good old Zinnas grow wherever there is a little bit of soil.

Anyone with a garden anywhere knows that plant choices are important.  Sometimes we cannot plant something we really like.

“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  John F. Kennedy

Hardy and a Surprise

Plants that stand up to weather and time are excellent investments.

This Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is about 11 years old and continues to thrive in its small confined place.

It’s a large shrub with clusters of unusual yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) has been another survivor.  It’s also about 11 years old.

Although it’s a tropical plant, it can survive here if it’s planted in a place protected from north winds.  So it’s not a shoo-in for our area.

Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) is the best plant to attract Queen butterflies.  The flowers themselves are unimpressive, but they definitely provide the needed nectar.

If you plant them, they will come.  And stay for the duration until winter.

Always a pleasure to look out the window and see the flurry of activity on these flowers.

Also very hardy is a large variety of weeds that are tenacious.  It’s a constant struggle to keep them out of the flowerbeds.  But that’s to be expected since we live in the middle of pastures.

Pink Surprise Lily or Naked Lady (Lycoris squamigera) was definitely a surprise for me this year.  According to my records, the bulb was planted 4 years ago and has never bloomed before.

At zone 8a, we’re out of its normal range.  The optimum zones are 6a to 7b.  When it was planted, the zone maps put our area at 7b.  Revised maps show we’re in a hotter zone.

I’ve since learned that the best growing conditions include a cold, long winter.  Since we did have colder temperatures and a later spring, I guess that explains why it finally bloomed.  Also, this lily prefers a dry, hot summer.  Voila.  We have that in spades.

The leaves appear first and die; then the naked stem with flowers appear.

Iron Weed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a native that grows in bar ditches and bloom with some moisture.  They can be gangly growing 3 ft. tall with flowers right at the top of the stem.  Their best feature is the purple color of the flowers.

I got a fistful of seeds from a friend about 4 years ago.  The plants reseed and will spread out.

“Respect old people.  They graduated high school without Google or Wikipedia.”  unknown

Crape Myrtle Time

The sun is strong and the heat is high, but the Crape Myrtles love it.  Some varieties start blooming in late spring and some in summer.

Three Dynamites were my first Crape Myrtles.  I wanted deep red flowers.

We planted them in a flower bed in a triangular shape in 2006.  They are about 5 and a half feet tall now.  The mature height for this variety is 20 – 30 feet.  This is a reminder that soil type and depth is a factor in any bush or tree growth.

Some of the flowers are red while others tend to be more pink.

This picture also shows what happens if all the little bloom twigs are not cut off at the end of winter.   Crape myrtles bloom on new growth, so this task is important.

This year we were involved in cleaning out my mother’s house to get it ready for the market.  So many late winter, early spring garden chores were neglected.

Here’s how that same bush looks groomed.

Although it’s a good idea to do research before any plant purchase, I often just skip right to the fun part of buying when I see something I like.

These two Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) are a case in point.  As an aside:  Crapemyrtle is sometimes spelled as one word and sometimes as two.  So I’m using whichever was used on each label.

Fortunately, the final height of 30′ to 40′ will work well in our yard.  Online resources about Crapemyrtles make it easy to plan ahead.

Ruffled petal edges add to the charm.

Two Centennial Spirit Crapemyrtle were planted in 2015.  They have struggled to survive and grow.  Most Crapemyrtles have a cold hardy temperature of 10 degrees.  This winter, temps dropped down to 4 and stayed there for several days.  So several plants have taken longer than usual to recover.

My most favorite variety of all is Alamo Fire Red.  All three plants have been healthy, hardy, and growing ever since they were put in the ground.  They even bloomed the first year.

They were bought from a man at a private plant sale in San Antonio.  Strangely, they aren’t listed on the A & M list. They are on a chart from Fanick’s Nursery in San Antonio.  So I don’t know how readily available they are on the general market.

Black Diamond Crapemyrtles feature nearly black leaves.  This was planted in a container in 2016 and put into the ground this year.

Mulch is highly recommended for any plant in our area to conserve moisture loss and to help with the temperature of root systems.  More mulch is obviously needed here.

Crapemyrtles are available in many shades of pink, red, lavender, and white.  They are probably the most spectacular small flowering tree in this area.  Just can’t praise them enough for their beauty and reliability.

“Be like a tree.  Stay grounded.  Connect with your roots.  Turn over a new leaf.  Bend before you break.  Enjoy your unique natural beauty.  Keep growing.”  Joanne Rapits

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

Bloom Time

Spring here has been on/off this year.  We still haven’t carried all the potted plants out of the shed, yet.  But it’s been warm enough for lots of flowers in the yard.

All the different colors of Iris have been beautiful.  It’s amazing that the flowers aren’t blow away because the winds have been so strong.

This small Western Catalpa or Catawba (Catalpaspeciosa) looks good in the spring but looks shabby in the hot summers.  It’s also known as Indian bean tree or cigar tree and is native to the U. S. Midwest.  The bean name comes from the 8 to 20 inch long seed pods in late summer.  The tree is three years old, but there haven’t been any beans, yet.

I was actually looking for an Orchid Tree, but a local nursery talked me into this one, instead.

Online information indicates that they should be planted in dry areas in any kind of soil and in full sun. This location checks all those boxes.

The flower shapes resemble an orchid.  We’ve debated about digging this tree up because it looks so bad with tattered leaves after enduring many days of wind , but can’t bring ourselves into taking out a living tree.

Lots of Amaryllis have bloomed in the yard, both single and double flowers.  Maybe our extra cold winter was what they needed.

Last year we bought a Minnesota Snowflake Mockorange (Philadelphus x virginalis)  The picture on the label showed a fuller flower.

Also, it doesn’t have a scent like I expected.  It is supposed to be a good pollinator bush, especially for bees.  Still waiting to see how it performs.

I do love Irises.

Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is native to Asia and Europe, but has naturalized in many parts of the U. S.  In Texas, we consider it a native because it’s so prolific.

Ox-Eye shines on tall stems and steals the show.  It does spread, but I consider that a good thing.  It can be dug up pretty easily.

Victoria Blue’ Salvia is a gorgeous perennial that was bred in 1978.  The flowers last a long time and can endure some shade.  It returned after a severe winter.  Love the strong, bright color.

Thanks for taking time to read my blog.  Hope your spring has been filled with flowers.

“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person.  Your behavior does.”  unknown

Spring Blooms

Spring isn’t here in my mind until the first flowers appear.  Then I get excited.

There are several types of iris.  Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) is considered a boggy land iris.  How I ended up with them, I can’t remember.  But they have come back for a couple of years in our dry climate.

Their form is different from the more familiar Bearded Iris.  The word Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, which is appropriate since there are so many different flower colors in the Iris family.

The Texas Scarlett Quince (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlett), starts to bloom when the weather is still cold.  The earlier blooms are now fading but the newer ones are deep red.

This is the very first sign of flowers on my Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) in five years old.  It was first planted in a full sun area, so two years ago, we moved it to a shadier spot.  Then it started to keep its green leaves through the summer.  Hurray.

Actually, someone told me they were difficult to grow in this area of Texas.  So, I took that as a challenge.

Spiderworts (Tradescantia Giantea) are blooming.  This first one was low to the ground but they’re atop tall stems now.

The foliage on Canyon Creek Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’) is yellow early in the spring but will darken to a copper color later.

A couple of pots of Dianthus made it through the winter fine.  They both came from my mother’s fenced backyard.  It gets really cold in Snyder, but there was protection away from the wind.  So I wasn’t sure they would survive the super cold winter on our windy hill.

Really like the gradation of these colors.

Bridal Wreath Spirea is showing off again.

Just doesn’t get any better than this.

Male Chinapin Oak with long, yellow catkins hanging before its leaves form.  Pollen from these flowers are carried by the wind to pollinate the flowers on the female trees.

The hanging yellow pollen flowers are pretty but a problem for people with allergies.

Dwarf Indian Hawthorne has pretty little flowers.  The one we planted last year got some freeze damage from our unusually cold winter.  Hopefully, it will fully recover.  We planted two others this year because we liked their look.

Earlier this spring I put out three Amaryllis that have been in pots for three years.  Christmas gifts that keep on giving.

This one has bloomed in a new flowerbed.  Other shrubs around it haven’t yet gotten big enough to protect it from the wind and hot western sun, so the blossoms may not last long.

Because of several different circumstances, I haven’t done much flowerbed weeding, yet.  But that’s not stopping me from enjoying the flowers.  Have a blessed spring just inhaling the beauty around you.

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”  Langston Hughes

Trees Anchor a Garden

West Texas, where I spent my childhood and youth, is almost devoid of trees, except for Mesquites.  So, I am reminded that no matter where one lives, there are public gardens where nature in all its beauty can be seen.  You might to travel to get there, but that’s can be a plus.

Tulip trees at Dallas Arboretum have a come hither pull on me.  It’s called a Tulip Tree, but it’s actually a Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana).

Even though they are past their prime, the lovely romantic look hasn’t passed.

Redbuds are blossoming out.

There was no identification sign on this one, but people around us were saying it was a Cherry Tree.  I thought Cherry Trees were much smaller.  This one was tall.  So I have my doubts about that ID.  But I’m certainly no expert.

Another Redbud that contrasts nicely with the Magnolia.

This is technically a large woody shrub.  The brilliant red of this Double Take Flowering Quince ‘Scarlet Storm’ (Chaenomeles speciosa) is blinding.  It makes my small native Texas Quince look pitiful.

So many towering tree in the garden give it a homey, comforting feel.  Even the bare branches provide some shade.

The arching of these bare Crape Myrtles remind me of Paris, for some reason.  Gorgeous tunnel effect.

Shakespeare and some symbols from his plays entice people to sit with him for a picture.

I’m not an authority on his works, but recognize this lion and crown as being from ‘King Lear’.

This little guy was behind Shakespeare.

As was this young maiden.

At first, I assumed this was a Japanese Maple.  But, I’m certainly not sure.

Sure like the color of the branches.

Lots of different structures add additional interest to the gardens.  This one also provides seating.  The large evergreen trees might be Live Oaks.

Looking a different direction shows more arches and a restaurant.

It’s easy to see why people call these Tulip trees.  So pretty.

Hope your spring is filled with beautiful trees and flowers.

“A toddler can do more in one unsupervised minute than most people can do all day.”  unknown

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