Critters in the Yard

When critters that we love and the ones that we don’t like, enter into our space, it makes life interesting.

Butterflies are my all favorite critter in the yard.  This Queen is feasting on Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Snakes terrify me.  This one scaled a six foot pole.  It went inside the hole of the birdhouse and slithered back out.  Don’t know if it was hoping for bird eggs or just bored.

This is a bluebird house and since we haven’t had any bird birds nest there, it’s just ornamental.

This snake may be harmless, but that doesn’t matter to me.  Makes me cringe.

Occasionally, a wild turkey wanders around the yard.  They are skittish and react to the slightest noise.

Pretty feathers, but it looks like it was designed by a committee.

A small bird kept flying out of this flowerpot on the back porch.  It looked like a Tufted Titmouse but moved too quickly for a photo.

Finally, when I was watering this old Kalanchoe, I spotted the reason.  Twigs had been brought into the pot and sort of a tunnel built to where the eggs were laid.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), a Texas native, draws lots of pollinators.

As the wind sways the tall stems, bees and other pollinators hang on.

Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) loves this shaded spot and covers this plot quickly each spring.

Remnants of a spider web can be seen on the top of the wheel.

This ruffled Coleus was recently propagated from a large one.  The stems grow quickly.  Very attractive.

Transition Time

Often the changing of the seasons here is abrupt with no chance to adjust from one to another.  This year has been very different with more rain and milder temperatures.  In fact, I have been hesitant to bring some more tropical plants outside yet.

Some colors never seem to photograph to the true color.  This Brilliant Veranda rose is actually a very strong red that stands out in the landscape.  It was labeled as a good size for a container plant.  Recently I tried to scoot it over, and the roots are firmly in the ground.

Another rose that never photographs well is this Drift Rose.  The flowers last a long time and are striking as a grouping.  My husband who hardly every mentions specific plants often comments on how pretty they are.

The seed pods on this Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) only last a short time in spring.

It’s an interesting plant in many ways.  One of those is that the trunks shoot out like a water sprinkler, so it’s long small trunks sway gracefully in the wind.

Larkspur is popping up all over the yard.  One of my favorite surprises during the springtime.

Not only have we had lots of rain, but the wind has been really strong, scattering rose petals.  Looks like an aisle at a wedding in some places.

Good old Henry Duelberg Salvia or Mealy Cup Sage makes pollinators and me happy.

Augusta Duelberg Salvia makes a nice contrast.

This evergreen Yarrow has lovely lacy foliage.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) on tall stems is just starting to bloom while Spiderwort (shorter purple blooms in front) is on its way out.

French Hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris) like the mild weather and rains.  Sylvestris means found wild.

Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is showing off with exotic blooms.

Stella de Oro Daylily is a dependable short-stemed perennial bulb.  I recently heard a speaker say that they are boring because they are ubiquitous.  I think these are beautiful.

Never expected this Yellow Lead Ball (Leucaena retusa) tree to get so big.  They are considered a small tree with total height about 12 feet.  They’re drought tolerant and very hardy in our rocky hard clay.

I like the fuzzy yellow balls and so do the bees and other pollinators.

It’s fun when nature surprises us with more pleasant weather than we expected.

“Expect to have hope rekindled.  Hope to have your prayers answered in wondrous ways.  The dry seasons in life do not last.  The spring rains will come again.”          Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

 

Ice, Ice, Ice

First of the year freeze has come and gone.  Almost, like clockwork, every January, there will be ice in the northern half of Texas.

With just mist in the air and a few drops of rain, ice formed on almost every surface outside, except for concrete areas and roadways.  The grass, Algerita bush, and the evergreen Blue Juniper to the left have ice crystals on them.

The branches of the huge Live Oak behind the backyard are weighted down with ice.  Although we have officially never had this tree examined to determine its age, it’s estimated to be over a hundred years old.

I always worry when the branches touch the ground, fearing they will break.  But, fortunately, the ice usually only lasts a couple of days.

Ice on stems and leaves of dead Cannas becomes a work of art.

Frozen water in a bird bath gives the edges of the concrete a pearlized look.  The glass knob-looking item in the center is actually an antique electrical insulator from a telephone pole.

Thin stems of Gaura are encased in ice.

Green leaves of Desert Bird of Paradise enveloped in ice.

Edged in ice, this trellis has a sophisticated, lacy appeal.

With its multiple tiny stems, a rose bush creates the most fantastic ice sculpture.

Mexican Feather Grass.

Dried Blue Mistflower stems.  Can you tell I’m enamored with the ice?

It’s surprising what lives with freezing temperatures.  These Four Nerve Daisies still have flowers.  What hardy natives they are.

Copper Canyon Daisy ice sculpture.

Pokeweed in a pot.

More rose bushes.

Not sure what this plant is.  Love the look.

Since we only have ice once or twice a year, it’s a real novelty.  So I get carried away with taking pictures.

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

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

Summer White

Generally, brightly colored flowers are my first choice for the yard.  However, white ones add sophistication and calm in the garden.

This Moon Flower, Thorn-apple, or Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii Regel) usually produces pure white flowers.  This one has a slight pinkish tinge.  Not sure why.  This is a shady area most of the day with some early morning light.

Please ignore the clutter below the flower.

Datura is a narcotic and if ingested, could be lethal.

This Butterfly plant is in a container.  It seems to have done better in the heat than the ones in a flowerbed.  It could be because I’m more conscientious about watering potted plants because I’m afraid they will dry out quickly.

White Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) is a pollinator magnet, plus it looks lovely swaying in the wind.  Note the visitor in the upper right corner of picture.

This Purple Datura actually looks white with a hint of purple along the edges of the petals.  Pictures on the internet show some with a deep purple color.  The Purple Datura originates several places in Asia.

The leaves also differ from the white Datura.

Daturas are annals that have large, prickly seeds that drop to the ground.  If conditions are good, a new plant will grow.  Or the seeds can be saved to start new plants.

Night bloomers, so early morning is the time to see their flowers.

Love the double petals.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia trachysperma) is in the Cleonmaceae family and has the look of the more popular Spider Flower or Cleome.

Seeds from Clammy Weed from a friend who is into natives.  Plant one and have a generous crop next year.

The plant’s height is about a foot tall.  Many consider it a weed, like the name.  And, it is definitely sticky or clammy.

One characteristic of the Southern Crinim Lily is the growth of the bulb to a large size and the multiplication of the bulb.  While it may be difficult to dig up, it’s a great pass-along plant that will be appreciated by the person receiving it.

The flowers tend to droop slightly.

There are conflicting views on the web – what?  Old views say that white clothes are cooler in the heat, while darker ones absorb the heat.  This view was practiced by the rich in the 18th and 19th century.

New views espouse that black is actually cooler because skin is hot in the summer and therefore reflects the heat back to the body from a white garment.

Anyway, white looks cool in the summer.  Just enjoy whichever floats your boat.

“It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight.  What untold wealth!”   Rabindranath Tagore

Looking Back Again

Whoa.  Last night was the lowest temperature we’ve ever had in the 16 years we’ve owned this property.  Four degrees.  That might look mild to you guys up north.  But it’s unheard of here. 

Even crazier, the forecast for this Saturday shows a high of 68.  We are used to wild swings in the temperature, but this is nuts.  So I choose to think on mild springtime with beautiful sunny days and bright flowers blooming.

All time best plant in Texas to attract butterflies:  Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum).  Nothing better, in my opinion.  From late spring to late fall, those flowers will be covered with butterflies, especially the Queen Butterfly, seen here.

Another must have for butterflies is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Butterflies, like this Painted Lady, and other insects flock to them.  And for us humans, they’re a gorgeous flower that blooms all summer and into the fall.

Crisp white Shasta Daisies announce “welcome home” just like a white picket fence.  This Common Buckeye butterfly is enjoying a feast.

Early spring brings Yellow Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens S. Watson) that looks poised for flight.

Nothing beats Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea Henry Duelberg aka Henry Duelberg Mealy Cup Sage) for attracting bees.  It’s a trustworthy perennial.  Love the purple flowers on tall stems.

Roses bring a romantic element to gardens.  Some roses are classic with the look of florist roses on tall stems.  I do enjoy having bushes that provide roses for cutting.

But these Drift Roses serve a different purpose.  They are reliable re-bloomers and low growing.  Like most Knockout Roses, they are covered with flowers during the warm season and provide consistent color to the yard.

Butterflies love White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).   It’s an interesting flower because its stems are so tall that they constantly sway in the wind.

Want some bright color?  These Strawberry Gompheras provide an electric color.  Their blooms last a long time.

To grow plants, wherever one lives, consideration has to be given for each plant’s needs.  This can feel burdensome or challenging.  I prefer the latter.  Here’s to you and your plants surviving this frigid weather.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everyday Gifts

Without sounding too pollyanna, I want to focus on the gifts we receive everyday that we often take for granted.  Mostly, we think of blessings like good health, a job we love, and a loving family as worthy of praise.  Stories of unexpected large sums of money given to people in need or stories of people who risk their lives to save others deservedly make the news.

But this post is about more subtle thoughtfulness such as when another car allows you to pull out in front of them or when a stranger smiles even when they’re busy or tired.  These gifts can easily be passed along to someone else.

Or we can just enjoy a rainy day if we live in an arid area or a sunny day if your home is in a frequent rain area.

In San Angelo a few weeks ago, I noticed pots and planters filled with plants in front of an antique mall.  There were lots of potato vines.  This one also has a Passion flower and maybe a small Turk’s Cap.

With extreme darkness and bright light beside each other, the setting is not ideal for photos.

What I appreciated was all the work involved in providing an attractive entry way and all along the side of the building.  I know it requires lots of time to keep pots watered in the extreme heat of West Texas.  Creating a pretty space for others to enjoy is a definitely a gift.

Also, I appreciated the artful placement of accessories among the plants.  Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) come in shades of chartreuse or purple.  Either color in a large grouping makes a big impact.

A Mother-of-Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) plant sits on the left of the bench.  It is so named because along the edge of each leaf is a row of plantlets that will drop and take root.  It is also known as Devil’s backbone, Alligator Plant or Mexican Hat Plant.  A succulent native to Madagascar, be wary of planting it where you don’t want it to spread.

To the right of that is African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens Orange), a heat loving plant.

A Knock Out Rose, more Potato Vine and maybe some Desert Rose.

This Austin stone planter filled with aloes has a nice crisp look.

Old tub filled with Potato Vine and White Guara or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri).

There must have been a sale on Potato Vine and Knock Out Roses.

Old wagons always make great containers for plants.

San Angelo is proud of the paintings on buildings that depict different parts of their heritage.

Not sure what this trash can is made of, but it’s definitely not a real anvil.

Items in front of an antique or ‘just used’ shop.

The store name is “Tossed and Found”.

Everytime I ooh and ahh over scenes like this, my husband says that I just like old, rusty junk.  That’s true.  Especially if a plant is plopped in or sitting on top of it.

A pot in front of a telephone pole creates a place for this Purple Passion Vine (Passiflora incarnata) to climb.  Two other common names seem really strange to me:  Maypop and Apricot Vine.

Gratitude for the small joys of life makes us happier and kinder.  My opinion.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Oppressive Blanket of Heat

Just a week or two of high temperatures with no rain can transform a pretty garden to dry crusty leaves, dead flowers, and limp stems and foliage.

For the first half of July, everything still looked pretty good.  The Vitex on the left had finished blooming and the Pink Coneflowers still had some flowers.  I recently pruned the Vitex in the hopes that it will bloom again this fall.

Hardy Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) last a long time:  from mid spring until mid July, depending on the weather .  Their refreshing look makes me happy.  But everything has its limits.  100 plus temperatures and dry heat with no relief buries us all.

This year a whole swarth of them came up among the Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).

The Crinums bloomed longer than usual this year.  But now the flowers are gone and the long leaves are looking ragged.

Enjoyed them while they were here.

This Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta cayennensis, S. indica) has struggled this year.  It receives some morning sun but doesn’t get direct sun after about 11 am.

The routine now is for me to get out early, just after the sun rises, and water pot plants every other day.  Because I have so many, it takes over an hour.  Gardening obession has gotten a little out of hand.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri has been changed to Oenothera lindheimeri, according to Wikipedia) still looks pretty good, although it has thinned out a little since this picture was taken.

Butterflies and bees love Gaura.  It always amazes me how the pollinators get anything out of some small flowers.

Pink Gaura also is surviving the heat.

I have several Daturas or Jimsonweeds (Datura stramonium) in the shade, so they are doing well.  Have to be out at night or early morning to catch their lovely white blossoms.

Purple Heart is also in the shade most of the day, so it is thriving.  I have mistakenly identifed Purple Heart  as Wandering Jew in some posts.  A friend pointed out that they are not the same plant at all.

Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) marches on.  I don’t think anything can kill it.  In fact, I have been trying to kill some that is encroaching on a rose bush.  It took multiple applications of Round Up before there was any noticeable damage.

Mexican Petunias love the heat.  Can’t say that I agree with them.  Hope you live in cooler temperatures or can stay inside and enjoy A/C most of the time.

Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.”  Edwin KeithSave

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Tall, Slender, and Elegant

Guess we all wish that title described us.  But, in this case, that means plants, not people.

Tall, of course, can be relative.   Larkspurs bloom on tall stems, as do Cannas, and the flowers of Red Yucca, so I’m including them.  Canna lilies, although not true lilies, grow from rhizomes and are faithful to return each spring.  Because they multiply, they are usually a pass-a-long plant.

One great thing about re-blooming Iris is that it flowers at unexpected times.

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) are a wonderful spring blooming annual, if you’re not picky about where it pops up in years to come.  They are generous re-seeders.

I had never considering planting their seeds until I saw them in a friend’s yard.  She generously shared some seeds; so I’ve enjoyed them ever since no matter where they appear.

Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba”)  is a small flowering tree with multiple trunks.  These tend to grow tall and remain slender.  The flowers look like lovely small orchids.

Desert Willows are native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Texas.

The thin stems of (Gaura Llindheimeri) keep growing taller throughout the hot months of summer until they hide whatever is behind them.  So I should have planted them in their own space, but I didn’t.

As they sway in the breeze, they are reminiscent of butterflies.  Thus a common name for them is Twirling Butterflies.

I also have a Pink Gaura which has reappeared after several years of being absent.  Gaura roots seem to endure very well.  They could be considered a bully, but I like them, anyway.

After my experience with Hollyhocks and Rust disease, I was undecided whether or not to dig up this one that came from some remaining roots.  After checking it over and keeping a close watch on it, it has survived disease-free and has produced beautiful flowers.  But it has been a rather dry spring.  If and when we get lots of rain, the disease will probably reappear.

Every year I rave about Henry Duelberg Saliva (Salvia farinacea).  I think it should be a staple that is used more often in zones 7b – 10a.

The white Augusta Duelberg Salvia (wife of Henry) is a companion that usually comes up in a bed of Henry Duelberg Salvia.  Don’t know how that works botanically.

In this picture, the Russian Sage is the tall slender beauty.  In front of it is Salvia Greggi and behind it is a huge Earthkind® rose bush on the left and Knockouts® on the right.

The hardiness and aroma of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) makes it a worthwhile plant, especially for arid areas.  It is native to the steppes, which are grassy plains, of southwestern and central Asia, so the name is appropriate.

Bee Balm or Monarda might not be considered elegant by some some people, but it’s a notable plant to attract pollinators.  Plus, I think it’s pretty, if it can be staked so that it won’t flop over.  I chose to put a cage around it to hold it up.

Gladiolus often need staking, but Atom Gladiola is a shorter version that doesn’t lean over too much.

These bulbs were ordered two or three years ago from Old House Gardens, which specializes in heirloom bulbs.

Although many of Old House Garden bulbs date back to the 1700’s, this particular bulb was hybridized in 1946.

The old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is true to many things, including plants.  So choose what plants you think fall into the category of tall, slender, and elegant.

“When life gives you a rainy day, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles.”  unknown

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Old Reliables

One of the great things about old friends is that they love you in spite of your flaws.  I feel the same way about plants that I can depend on.

Privet bushes (Ligustrum vulgare) are invasive in the southeastern U.S. and are much maligned by horticulturists.  But here, in our hard, rocky clay, they just survive.

In early spring, they flower heavily and provide a wonderful aroma.

This bush has been here about four years, so at some future date, I may have to eat my words.  But, for now, we are enjoying it.

And so are the butterflies.

Strong scent attracts Painted Lady butterflies.

We have been dragging the same two pots of Asparagus Fern in and out of sheds for over thirty years.  Actually, the roots would probably survive outside in the winter, but it takes a long time for the sprigs to grow back out and look nice.

At one time, I had some in hanging baskets, but that required diligent watering.

It is interesting that they aren’t really ferns but are in the lily family.

For several years, Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) Whirling Butterflies has been blooming in our yard.  I must admit that they are becoming aggressive but are fairly easy to dig up.  They haven’t yet jumped out of the flower bed where they were planted.

I also like them in pots that can be moved around the yard.  They will return after the winter, even in pots.

Dianthus will return for several years but will eventually die out.  They are lovely little flowers.

This pot came from my mother’s yard.  At 97, she recently moved into assisted living.

Another Amarylis just bloomed.  This one is in the ground.  Even though this one isn’t quite as pretty as the last one I showed, I do like the short stem.

As I’ve said before, bulb flowers just keep on giving.

Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) are starting to bloom.  Year before last, they were divided and spread out into two different beds.  This year they have regained their fullness and filled in nicely.  Shastas are a good investment because they are reliable, add a bright clean look, and the clumps can be divided.

The Mexican Feather Grass behind them adds graceful movement.

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.”
David Letterman

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