How Dry It Is

While the Gulf coast of Texas experienced horrendous flooding, the western and central part of the state were dry and dusty.  Here we’ve had 13 inches of rainfall this year, less than half of the average 27 inches.  We’re drier than even surrounding areas.  I suspect that’s due to the fact than our property is in a valley between two ridges.

Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is so hardy that some consider it invasive.  This has been here for about 11 years, and only two years ago did another one come up in the same flower bed about three feet from the parent plant.

The flower bed has drip line watering, so a voluntary in our hard clay dirt outside of the flower bed doesn’t seem likely.

The thin, narrow leaflets on the compound leaves that resemble Mesquite leaves means that there is little water evaporation, so it’s a great plant for our area.

A desert plant from South Africa, African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange African Bulbine’), doesn’t mind the heat.  It cannot take cold, so we’ve been lugging two pots of these into a shed each year for more years than I care to remember – probably 11 years.

The flowers aren’t showy but look nice blowing in the wind.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a prolific grower.  Also known as Virgin’s Bower and Japanese Clematis, it is such a vigorous plant that it must be cut back each winter.

This year the vine has suffered from chlorosis.  It’s one of those things I think of when I pass by it and forget later.  Just recently I read that the iron should be applied with Sulfur Soil Acidifier.  I bought some today, so there’s no excuse to postpone this task.

Sweet Autumn Clematis lives up to its name.  The sweet smell engulfs anyone near it.

Anyone familiar with Mexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) knows how invasive they are, but a patch of them is a stunning sight.  All this started from one little cutting I took years ago.

Every spring we dig them up around the edges to stop their spread.  This year I gave up and used several doses of Round Up to keep them contained.

And, oddly, I still like them.  They look great behind a bed of Blue Mist Greggii.

The Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) have begun their reach for the sky.  In spite of their name, they are drought tolerant and get very little water.

From spring until the middle of September, the plants have this palm tree look.

Then the stems start growing tall and sunflowers appear.

Extremes of weather plays havoc in gardens, but plant lovers just keep propagating, planting, watering, and weeding.  It’s can be frustrating but satisfying and rewarding.

“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control.  We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”
Jan SchakowskySave

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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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Austin’s Zilker

In all the many times we’ve visited Austin, we had never been to Zilker Botanical Gardens.  So in June, the morning after we attended a Gilbert and Sullivan production, we walked through the gardens.

Zilker3Near the entrance from the parking lot is an above ground pond for water plants.

ZilkerI love water lilies but don’t want to bother with the installation, maintenance, and problems with animals that a water feature might involve.

Zilker4Looks like a dill plant, but in water?

Zilker1Very soothing to the soul.

Zilker2

Zilker5Another favorite – Hydrangeas –  cannot be grown here.  Rocky clay soil and extreme dry heat just don’t cut it.

Zilker6Queen of the Nile (Agapanthus) don’t make it through our winters.  Really lovely, though.

Zilker7This might be another variety of Queen of the Nile.

Zilker8Plumbagos (Plumbago auriculate) are from South Africa and do very well here in the summer but must go into a green house for the winter.

Zilker9Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis), also know as Confederate Rose or Mallow Rose, is a super perennial in our area and evergreen further south.

ZilkeraAlthough Austin is only 125 miles south of us, the weather is much more tropical.  So the plants that grow there don’t have to contend with cold weather, most of the time.

Zilkerb A large section of the park has tropical plants and natives to the area growing in a naturalistic style.

ZilkercSome areas seem like they are in the country rather than the city.

Zilkerd

ZilkereTexas Pink Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Texas Pink’)

ZilkerfMexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

ZilkergI like the look of tropical foliage plants but since they are annuals here, I don’t buy them.

ZilkerhPride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) thrives in Austin but doesn’t survive winter here.  So we grow Mexican Bird of Paradise, which has a similar look but not the bright color of the flowers.

Zilkeri

ZilkerjLove the bright red of what I think is a Firecracker Plant or Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea).

ZilkerkFirecracker Plant or Fountain Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) grows in zone 9 or above.  It’s a nice filler plant.

Zilkerl

ZilkermA Walking Stick on a lamplight globe.

ZilkernI think this is Mexican Heather.

ZilkeroUnknown.

ZilkerpThese gardens looked very Austin, but I personally prefer that botanical gardens be more formal since my own gardens are not.

One note:  there was a large rose garden area, but the bushes were in sad shape and didn’t have many blooms.  I did not think that the roserosette virus had reached Austin yet.  It started in Oklahoma and is in most of North Texas now and is breaking rose lovers hearts.  So far, we have been spared.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Orange in the Yard

The trend this year seems to be orange:  wear it and decorate with it.  Wearing it doesn’t work for my skin tones.  Nor do I use it much inside my house.  But outside it perks up spaces.

orangeyellowEvery year the old-fashioned orange Daylilies usher in spring so reliably and lift the spirits to say, “Winter is over.  Hurrah.”

orangeyellow8A generous gift of probably 60 bulbs from a friend about nine years ago, they keep on giving.  No problems, no worries.  Just plant and water occasionally.

orangeyellow9Three years ago, I moved a few that were on the edge of the bed to this spot.  The green leaves of a Rose of Sharon bush behind them makes them the star of the show.  Later, hibiscus-like flowers from the bush will provide some color.

orangeyellow3One lone Daylily that has come up around the corner of the house with some Violets that have also crept into this bed.

orangeyellowcFinal one.  Just can’t stop snapping pix of these beauties.

Orange is a funny word.  It’s one of the few words in English that no other word rhymes with.  Actually, languages are strange.  There’s a NPR radio program that answers questions about old family sayings and language, in general.  Check out  “A Way with Words” and let me know what you think..

orangeyellowaThe African Bulbine flowers combine yellow and orange.  They’re wispy and move in the breeze.  Since it originates from below the equator, it must be protected in cold weather.

orangeyellow2A striking small ornamental tree is Bird of Paradise.  There are at least three types of Bird of Paradise sold.

The one in the picture is Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii).  The flowers are yellow with orange stamens.   Because of old incorrect informtion, I usually call it Mexican Bird of Paradise.

Ones with bright orange flowers is Pride of Barbados  (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  These are prominent in large box stores.  My experience has been that they die in winter here.

Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) has yellow flowers and yellow stamens.  Since they all look similar, it can be confusing to choose the one that works for you.

orangeyellow4Tropicana Roses are one of those indefinable colors, but there’s an orange tint to them.  Another great performer.  This year it has been filled with flowers.  I cut them often to bring inside, but soon more appear.

orangeyellowhIxora did not fare well this past winter in the shed, but enough survived to flower.  Maybe some fresh air and sunshine will bring new growth.

orangeyellowiMost of my Ice Plants have pink flowers.  This one from a friend has orangish ones.

Maybe you can decide on a specific color pattern for your yard.  I simply can’t.  Therefore, I have a hodgepodge.  This is not what designers recommend.

“Every time I get mad, I remind myself that prison orange is not my color.”    Unknown

This and That

A little rain, a lot of wind requiring holding on to a tree for stability, a little cool weather, and some flowers hanging on is the situation here.

autumnblooms4The Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is losing flowers quickly in this wind.  Earlier in the spring it wasn’t blooming profusely like normal.  But it recovered and is an interesting focal point at one corner of the house.

autumnblooms8It’s always a surprise where Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma) will come each year.  This year the holes of some insects left the leaves looking like tattered lace.

autumnbloomsmThe flowers are attractive but not bold.  With some decent foliage, it’s a nice looking plant.

autumnbloomsaI don’t know why it took me so long to discover Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha).  It’s a perfect plant for our arid conditions.  It’s a shrub that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.  Oops, I definitely didn’t leave enough space for its width.

autumnbloomsnMexican Sage is a sun lover, although it will tolerate some shade.  It is drought tolerant and attracts bees.

autumnbloomsoPlus, the flower spikes have a soft velvet look.

autumnbloomspJust makes a person want to reach out and touch it.  We’ll see how it survives the winter.

autumnbloomseThe Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) or Narrow-leaf Sunflowers put on their usual air show waving on tall stalks.  Most of the flowers are gone now, but they bloom for about two months.

autumnbloomsgOne stalk leaned over and it was easier to admire the flowers close-up.

autumnbloomshThe brilliant red turban-like flowers of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) just keep on attracting bees.

autumnbloomsfI love to watch all the flitting activity of the pollinators.  Very soothing.

autumnbloomsdSince Orange African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) is not winter hardy, I’ve kept it in two large pots for years.  But the last couple of years, I’ve planted some as an annual in one bed.  Each spring when the pots are put outside, a few clumps are hanging just over the edge of the pots with their roots out of soil, so I decided to just put them in the ground, where they last until the first freeze.

This is a water wise plant that does well in the hot sun and is a beauty.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”
Chief Seattle Duwamish

What’s Blooming

Although most things are not in full bloom in the yard, there are some flowers.  Enough time has elapsed since our last freeze to access the losses from the winter.  Dead trees and bushes have been pulled up, so it’s time to enjoy some the freshness of spring.

yardsummerstartxThe Mexican Feather Grass  (Nassella tenuissima) came through all that cold like a breeze.  This is a Texas native from the Trans Pecos area that tolerates limestone based soils – hooray.

yardsummerstartkThis time the dark clouds actually materialized into some rain: an inch last week and almost two inches yesterday and this morning.  Time for a happy dance.

Beside the larger Mexican Feather Grass are some green new clumps that came up in several places.  I transplanted them close to the parents so there will be an even fuller display swaying in the wind.

yardsummerstartyHenry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) or sage is a reliable plant that spreads and puts on a show every year.  The first three tiny plants were put in eight years ago.

yardsummerstartzIt blooms from spring until the first freeze in the full sun.  And that’s Texas sun!  This one deserves the Texas Superstar status it has and is for anyone who needs a drought tolerant, hardy bit of color.

yardsummerstartwThese Gopher Plants were planted a month ago.  There are several different botanical names for plants that look like this.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is an euphoriba.  I had heard that it was a good plant for this area and is from the Mediterranean region, which usually means drought tolerant.

The Gopher Plant name comes from the fact that they are poisonous to gophers.  Wouldn’t they also be poisonous to other animals?

yardsummerstartvSince I bought it (and I had to search for it), I’ve read that it does not survive in clay soils.  Oh, well.  I’m watching it closely to see if it needs to go into a pot.

Note the single grass like green shoots behind it.  These only grow in this area and plague me.  I’ve pulled and sprayed.  Nothing seems to work.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

yardsummerstart8The Balloon Flowers are starting to open.  For eight years, they have done very well, but they don’t spread.  I’ve read that they also do not survive dividing.  So I finally bought a few more to fill in the space.  It seems that no nursery in our area carries Balloon Flowers, so these were bought at Lowe’s in the metroplex.

The other stems with lacy leaves are some Larkspur that came up in this bed.

yardsummerstart7Another reliable sight each year is the Mexican Bird of Paradise.

yardsummerstart6More Larkspur in another bed.  I let them bloom where ever they appear since they perk up any flowerbed.

yardsummerstartThis Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is my prize for the year.  This is a gorgeous wildflower that grows in bar ditches. It is also called Texas plume, Red Texas Star, or Red Gilia.  Two years ago I bought a few at the Lady Bird Johnson Center plant sale.  This is the first time any have bloomed.

yardsummerstart2Love, love their brilliance.

yardsummerstart3The tubular flowers look similar to some other plant blooms, like Acanthus, but the color is stronger.  Just doesn’t get any prettier.

“Do one thing today for someone.  It may not mean much to you, but it might mean the world to them.”  Unknown

Old and New

Old or new?  That can mean friends, habits, experiences, tastes, or whatever.  Do we have to choose?  Sometimes circumstances, such as locations or life changes, dictate that we can’t embrace the old and the new at the same time.  But fortunately, it’s possible to enjoy old favorite plants and the acquaintance of new plants at the same time.

birdofparadise5This was one of the first bushes we planted after we moved here.  We did make a mistake where it was planted.  I certainly don’t recommend planting a Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) in a flowerbed beside the house.

birdofparadiseIt was a surprise that it grew so fast.  If allowed, it would grow into a small tree.  We cut it back almost to the ground every winter in an attempt to keep its roots from damaging the foundation.  I’ve learned that doesn’t really work because the roots continue to grow even when the trunk is managed.  My hope is that it has deep roots like most plants that are drought tolerant.

birdofparadise2Bees flit from the end of one red stamen to the other.  How they can gather pollen that quickly is a mystery to me.

birdofparadise3They are not alone on the bush.  The spider in this picture successfully netted this bee.

birdofparadise4Not only is the spider enjoying one meal but has another trapped for the upcoming meal.  It’s barely visible in the picture, but the bee on the right is caught in the same web.

Yes, almost every part of this bush is poisonous.

blackberrylilyA new friend in the Garden Club comes up with more varieties of Texas natives or plants that have adapted to this area than anyone I know.  And she’s always willing to share.

This Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) is just one of many plants that she has introduced me to.  It is a bulb plant in the iris family.

blackberrylily2The flowers are rather small.  Clusters of shiny black seeds are exposed when the seed capsules split open.  I haven’t seen this yet, but look forward to it.

Blackberry Lily is native to China and Japan.  Crazy that it grows here.

I’m thankful for friends who have taught me so much and for fellow gardeners who are generous with their knowledge and their pass along seeds, bulbs, and plants.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you.  You have to go to them sometimes.”  Winnie the Pooh