Gray Days of Winter Around the Corner

Enjoying a few more days of some color in the yard.

A few Jackman Clematis purple flowers hang on the vine.

Although all the foliage is gone, some Whirling Butterfly Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) still  waves in the wind.  Behind that are some red blossoms on a Flame Acanthus.

Henry Duelburg Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea) doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet.

This year the Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) won’t be carried inside, so it may pass away completely.  Each year we haul it in and each spring it takes forever for it to recover, and it seldom blooms.  So I give up.  It belongs in zones 10 – 11, but I was trying to push the envelop.

On a misty, overcast day, native Flame Prairie Sumac (Rhus Lanceolata) looks like it’s on fire.

This year the Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) has lots of tiny orange red berries.  I love the fact that it’s an evergreen tree.

Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) berries are a little bigger and redder.  A winter treat for the birds. It’s a Texas native and a very hardy small tree with multiple trunks.

The tree/bush is very full of berries.

A few buds have shown up on the Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) .  It quit blooming months ago when the heat got too intense.  It’s also called Apricot Mallow based on the color of its flowers.

Maggie Rose (Rosa ‘Maggie’) just keeps on blooming.  It’s a fragrant bourbon rose that likes our climate.

Bought this bush a couple of years ago and kept it in a shed until I had a place for it.  It has surprised me because the limbs have grown so long and gangly, and the magneta globe flowers are so tiny.

Have lost the tag and can’t identify it.

It has a tendency to spread out.  So it’s really too close to other plants.  I’ll worry about that next year.

Several of the David Austin roses I have don’t flower very well.  But this Thomas A. Beckett blooms often and the bush looks healthy.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) flowers last a long time.

I moved this Mint to a container because it was taking over a flower bed.  Even in tight confines, it’s doing well here.

“One kind word can warm three months.”  Japanese proverb

Unrelenting Heat

It’s still hot.  It’s still dry.  It’s still hot.  It’s still dry.  The summer merry-go-round keeps circling around and around.

So how could any plant survive this?

First of all, the plants in the yard have received more watering than usual.

Some plants actually live and bloom better in the heat, like this Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata).  The foliage is green most of the year.  But it’s flowering performance with its strong sweet smell comes in the hottest part of summer – mid August into September.

One warning:  prune it back to the ground by the beginning of spring, or it will be so heavy, it will tumble down and bring the trellis with it.  The optimum time is early winter.

The flowers disappeared from Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) when the heat cranked up, but the foliage is pretty and unique all by itself.  The ruffled leaves are soft to the touch.

This lovely plant is new to me this year.  Although I can’t find the tag, I think it is Rose Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena Globosa).  The leaves are wider than other gomphrenas, and it grows in a rounded mound.

Strawberry Field Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana) are individual plants with a bright red ball at the top of each stem.  They reseed so freely that just a few can guarantee many flowers for years to come.

Another successful bush for this heat is Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii).

Bees and other pollinators flock to it.

Caryopteris or Bluemist shrub (Cayopteris x clandonensis) shines in the heat.  The main concern is more about its cold hardiness.  But it has survived some low temperatures.

Celosia is a large plant family that includes several annuals, such Cockscomb.  This one is Flamingo Feather (Celosia spicata).  All celosias do well in the heat.  The trick is to save their seeds.  I’m hoping to do that with this plant.

A favorite in Texas is Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  There’s no question that it’s a stunner.  But the problem is that it isn’t cold hardy here.  So it has to be brought inside for the winter.  That’s possible for a few years before it gets too large.
So I’ll just enjoy it for now.

Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) is listed as cold hardy for here in Zone 8.  But I have lost one already, so for right now it is carried to a protected area each winter.

A plant that should not be grown here is Firebush (Hamelia patens).  I resisted getting one as long as I could.   It does very well two zones warmer than here.  For now, it’s in a pot.

Sometimes, I think my love of plants is madness.

Of course, the very best plants for any region are the native ones.  If they grow in a field with no supplemental water, that is a dead give away that they’re perfect for the area.  Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) forms large colonies in the dry fields.

Sometimes a few will come up in the yard, so I let them grow.  Obviously, this Swallowtail butterfly appreciates it.

 “To find some who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, this is the ultimate happiness.”  Robert Brault 

Winter Color

Winter has been mild so far here, which is fine with me.  So there are some tiny bits of color scattered around the yard.

First, I must apologize for the quality of some of the pictures – not totally in focus.

Dianthus have survived a couple of freezes really well.

This Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) has had some blooms that don’t stay open for more than a day.  It’s a native with dusty green curly leaves and is a good performer in both the summer heat and a mild winter.

Texas Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) usually has some flowers in January or February.One lone Daffodil has opened up.

Several years ago I bought this at a garden club sale and was told that it was an evergreen fern.  Turns out, it is a native Yarrow with white flowers.  But it is evergreen.

Pittsporoum in a pot provides some green, but the tips of the leaf edges are a little crisp from an earlier freeze.

Another native Yarrow has completely different leaves.  I think this is Moon Dust Yarrow (Achillea ‘Novaachdus’).  It is somewhat evergreen with dusty green leaves and does not reseed.

This hardy Ice Plant is amazing.  It’s been in the same pot on the back porch for years.  In cold weather, the foliage looks a little ragged, but it keeps on blooming even in freezing weather.  The pot is in a corner spot which protect it from harsh winds.

Yes.  I do know that this is a weed.  But the Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) will be easy to pull out of this pot when I want to get rid of it.

I think it’s pretty, and it is color.  Can’t be too choosy in the winter.

Spectacular sunrises start the day with cheery color.

On a cloud covered morning came brilliant red on the horizon.

While we’re enjoying a mild winter, I realize that further north, a polar vortex has struck with devastating temperatures.  I pray for safety for everyone experiencing this.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”   Edith Sitwell

Gray/Silver Foliage

When I think of my favorite plants, flowers always come to mind.  But there are advantages to more muted plants.

Dusty Miller or Silver Dust (Centaurea Cineraria) originates from an island off of Italy.  It’s an old fashioned plant grown in the thirties, forties, and fifties by rural people.

Silver gray plants provide a shimmer or cool calmness to the landscape.  This one was bought in the spring and has exploded.  Many plants with gray foliage, including Dusty Miller, grow well in full sun.

The individual leaves are not that striking.

But when silver/gray plants are framed by a background of dark green, an interesting contrast occurs.  Sunlight lights up the silver color and makes them a focal point.

Globe mallow or Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has round, cupped orange flowers in the spring.  But its foliage is also worthy of attention.

Its ruffled leaves have a different form than most gray plants.

Native to the drier regions of North and South America, in the Southwest of the U.S., sheep and goats graze on them.

When purchased, this was labeled Prairie Sage, but I haven’t been able to positively identify it.  It doesn’t bloom, has a tendency to flop down from the middle, and keeps most of its foliage during the winter.

The silver color is attractive but not sure I would recommend it.

This was given to me, unidentified.

Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is aromatic and has a wonderful soft texture.  My only compliant is that it tends to become misshapen.

But I do love the look and touch of it.

My favorite silver/gray plant is Powis Castle Artemisia (Artemisia arborescens x absinthium) because it is soft, hardy, and can grow in sun or filtered sun, although I think it does better in mostly sun.

A versatile plant that fits in most landscapes.  This one is in a pot, but it does well in the ground.

This is not an extensive list of gray plants, just some that I have grown.

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  Arthur YorinksSave

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Early Bird Blooms

Seesawing temperatures has confused us all.  Each day is a surprise.  There is always a possibility of a freeze as late as the middle of April hanging over our heads.  Several years ago on Easter, snow covered the blooming Bluebonnets.

I’ve been working to get plants cut back or pruned and debris picked up.  This is the first time this Canyon Creek Abelia (Abelia x ‘Canyon Creek’) has been visible since this time last year.  The Guara grew up in front of it and had grown up under it.  So we dug that up and moved it.

The coppery color of the leaves is very pretty.  Later, small white flowers will cover its branches.

Some of the roses are blooming like crazy.  I didn’t get this Knock-Out bush pruned back.  I concentrated on tea roses because it is more critical to get them cut in February.

The bushes are way too tall and wide, but they can be trimmed anytime.

This Earth-Kind bush is about eight feet tall.  Too tall for me to trim easily.

The yellow flowers of this Knock Out Rose fade to a pale, almost white, before they die.

The Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) is all dressed up for spring.  Interestingly, it is in the rose family and is not related to other Laurels.

It is totally covered with clusters of off white flowers.

The whole tree is abuzz with bees.  The black berries attract birds, but some fall to the ground.  In some places people complain that too many sprouts grow from them.  Not a problem here with the hard packed ground.

Warnings are given about how poisonous the leaves and fruit are.  They contain cyanide.

It’s a relatively fast grower.  This one is 12 years old and has been worry free and is evergreen.  Hooray.

Bridal Wreath Spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia) is starting to bloom.

Aptly named, it will be completely covered with flowers in a couple of weeks.

Lots of dark skies with promises of rain that don’t pan out.  Much patience is required while waiting for spring rains.

The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus meuhlenbergii)  is a Texas SuperStar tree with leaves that are more elongated than most oaks.  It is in the white oak family, which means it is less susceptible to oak wilt disease.

Pretty small Hyacinths blooms carry a strong scent.

The Gray Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea incana) is sporting its first flowers.  Trimming it back can be done after some other things are done.  Also, needs weeding.  This Texas native’s bright orange cupped flowers stand out against its silvery gray foliage.  Very hardy.

Busy time in the yard.  Pruning is just about finished.  Weeding is an ongoing task.  But lovely flowers are reward enough.

“Being defeated is often only a temporary condition.  Giving up is what makes it permanent.”  Marilyn Vos Savant

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Awesome Autumn

In our region, every drop of rain and every cool day is a blessing.  Makes us all feel rejuvenated.

autumnblooms Vitex still has blooms.

autumnblooms12Flame Acanthus has gotten a lot of attention from butterflies lately.  Here some fast little Sulphurs zip from flower to flower making it a challenge to photograph even a blur of yellow.

autumnblooms1This Giant Swallowtail lingered at each tubular blossom.

autumnblooms2Beauty in motion.

autumnblooms6Swallowtails have a wingspan of 4 to 5 and a half inches, so it’s easy to spot them.

autumnblooms3Globe Mallow is covered with bright orange cup shaped flowers.  Boy, I never expected this native to get so large.

autumnblooms4The orange flowers pop on the grey-green ruffled leaves.  The bush is a nice contrast to all the green leafed bushes around it.

autumnblooms5The flowers on the Blue Plumbago or Cape Plumbago are dropping daily.  The blue flowers are so pale that in bright light they look white.  Soon it will be time to carry it into the shed.

autumnblooms7Roses are putting on a final extravaganza.  I love how rose bushes perform year after year.

autumnblooms8Pale peachy color on the flowers from this bush is stunning.  I’ve had it so long that I don’t remember the variety.

autumnblooms9A tight bud.

autumnbloomsaTropical Ixora (Ixora coccinia) is known as jungle flame.  It amazes me that the flowers bloom almost indefinitely.  The evergreen shrub has a rounded shape with glossy foliage.

Being a plant that naturally grows in Asian heavily wooded areas, it prefers shade.  Mine is grown in a pot that is tucked into a corner where it only receives late afternoon sun as it is low on the horizon.

autumnbloomsbReblooming Irises are back, although on very short stems.

autumnbloomsccVariegated Fritillary on a Pink Coneflower (Echinacea).  Most of the Coneflowers have dried, but a few have appeared in recent weeks.  Coneflower is an easy plant to grow.  It reseeds and multiples every year.

bunches5Back in August after a heavy rainfall, this trellis that has Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) was growing so thickly that it toppled over.  We cut back the vines to the ground, put in more concrete, and righted the trellis.

Since that time, the vine is growing like crazy.  It’s going to be difficult to keep this thing in check.  Okay. Maybe it’s becoming invasive.

autumnbloomsdCopper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) blooms in late fall and is always a nice surprise.  It is native to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico and truly doesn’t need much water.

Up close it also stinks, so deer don’t like it.  It’s not a problem outside but reeks in a confined space.

autumnbloomsddIt flowers on the ends of wispy stems that bounce around in the wind.

autumnbloomsdddNice bright yellow flowers.  This might be a Painted Lady butterfly on it.

“Love is like wildflowers; it’s often found in the most unlikely places.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Early Spring Color

The wet weather has ended, the sun is out, the grass is greening, some trees are budding, and color is returning to the yard.  All is right with the world.  That, of course, is ignoring current politics, war and famine in the world.

nearspring6This guy kept his gray-green foliage during the warm winter.  Desert Mallow or Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is considered a desert plant with winter hardy zones 9 – 10.  However, I’ve had this bush for three years, and it has easily survived our winters.  If and when we have a severe one with many days below freezing, it may not last.

nearspring3Pollinators already enjoying it.

nearspring7The smallish orange flowers are not an in your face glaring color.

nearspringaOne day recently I was in Brady waiting for a meeting.  With some time to kill, I went to Walmart looking for flowerpots.  Normally, I don’t buy plants there, but their tulips, daffodils, and Hyacinths looked so bright and healthy that I succumbed to impulse buying.  The soil was not dry, as is often the case in box stores plants.

Plus, they were a dollar each.  What a buy.

nearspringbSorry the pictures are lousy and the flowers look washed out.

First, I planted these in a large pot to enjoy inside near a french door.  What a strong scent they have.  After a couple of days with the aroma too strong, I went ahead and planted them outside where the rains laid them on their sides.

Maybe, next year I’ll get to enjoy them.

nearspring9 I bought this evergreen ground cover Vinca minor at a garden club plant sale.   Another member warmed me that it would take over my flowerbed.  Since I planned to use it in a spot that has a 12 ft. long by 5 foot wide rock just under the topsoil, I didn’t listen.

How do I know that massive rock is there?  Years ago, after we finished the soil preparation for a 150 ft. long and 8 ft. wide flowerbed, we tried to plant rose bushes in the rock area.  Since nothing with deep roots can be planted there, I’ve seeded it each year with Zinnas.  But it still needed something to look full.

nearspring8Vinca minor grows about 6 inches tall and produces beautiful purplish-blue flowers in early spring.  Information online says that Vinca minor prefers full to partial shade.  Mine grows in full sun with a little bit of morning shade.  It is a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.  It only blooms in early spring and is mainly prized for its foliage.

So far, I’m not sorry it’s there.  It has just started to spread out after three years.  I’m hoping it can be controlled.  Maybe wishful thinking.

“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”             Swedish Proverb