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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August’s Heat

The last weekend in August is the time for the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ annual bicycle ride in Wichita Falls, Texas.   This event brings out tons of people who torture themselves on a up and down hill course in 100 plus temperatures.  I mean:  who does this?

But then, who lives in this climate?  The answer:  native Texans and many who have come to the sun belt to enjoy the wonderful winters.

augustheat4What else survives the heat?   There are actually quite a few plants that have adapted to extreme heat as well as the native plants.

This Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) is seven years old.  I like the curly, unpredictable growth habit.  However, it does not survive winter, even here, so it has to be brought in.

augustheat6That’s difficult since it has grown so large.  The spikes on the ridges are extremely sharp.  Last year a tall spike broke off.  No problem, I just planted it and now have another Elkhorn.  The white sap is poisonous, so handle with care.

augustheatIn the back to the right is an ornamental pepper plant, which has struggled this year.  It wilts between waterings, which is about three to four days apart.  It has several smaller plants that came up this year, so I probably should have taken them out of this pot.

The plant in front is Escheverua ‘Blue Curl’ which needs bright, but not direct light.  That requirement applies to most succulent plants.

augustheat2Some things are starting to look ragged at the end of summer.  Like this ten year old Oxalis.  But it’s hanging in there.

augustheat5It’s a challenge to find enough shade in our yard for plants that need it.  Above is Coleus and Purple Heart that get early sun as the sun hovers over the horizon.

augustheat3The potted Petunias have surprised me because they have lasted from spring into August.  I will definitely use some of them again next year.

augustheatbHere is a Moon Flower plant in another shady area and the pot with the new Elkhorn.

augustheataThe flowers of Moon Flower or Jimson Weed (Datura wrightii) are always a delight.

augustheatc

augustheat9The metal pickup on a pole is about five feet tall.  That is a gauge for how tall the Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten.

augustheat7Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele) is not a consistent bloomer, but I enjoy it when flowers appear.

augustheat8The flowers actually look more like a hibiscus than a rose.

augustheatdJust this year Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’)  was designated a Texas Superstar Plant.  I wondered why because we have two that are four years old, and this is the first year for them to bloom.  So I did a little research.  Although the plant label that came with them did not state this information, they do not do well in alkaline soils.  We definitely have that in spades.

augustheateThis year, I’ve poured the water on them and the blooms are gorgeous.

Crape Myrtles do so well in the whole central Texas area that I was surprised to learn that this one has different soil needs.  I certainly won’t dig them up.  But now I know they need extra water.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center just sent out an article to encourage all the gardeners in Texas who are weary of the sun and hot temps this time of the year.  It pointed out some positives to note:  dried, brown, fried flowers provide seeds for birds and next year’s crops of flowers; act as mulch and insulate the ground from the heat; dried flowers provide beauty in form; and brown is not an ugly color.  That’s a great spin for us all.

“It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”  Walter Winchell

Rising Heat

As temperatures heat up, I appreciate those flowering plants that can survive.  The high so far has been 99 which means we haven’t gotten into the crazy time, yet.

summerheat7This Pink Guara (Onagraceae Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten out of hand.  It is spreading rapidly now.  It was well behaved for about six years.  But it still looks so pretty swaying in the wind.  It will bloom continuously until the first freeze.

summerheat8And all kind of pollinators enjoy it.

summerheat6This long stem was bent low as this butterfly, maybe a migrating Monarch, hung on.

summerheat9The Crinums from the Amaryllidaceae family are blooming now but won’t last long.  They probably should be divided.  However, the bulbs are huge.  So I’m not quite sure how to accomplish that in the heavy clay without tearing them up.

summerheataVery few Gladiolas have bloomed this year.  The bulbs have been in the ground for years.  I divided a few in the spring, which is the wrong time of the year for that and too late for them to bloom this year.

summerheatbAhh, the tropical Hibiscus flowers are glowing.

summerheatcThis plant is about eight years old.  I love it.

summerheat2For years, we’ve had Barn Swallows nesting on a small ledge around both the front and back porches.  They make a horrible mess on the furniture and the front wooden floor and back concrete.  So this year, we paid a hefty fee to have the HardiPlank extended to eliminate the ledge edge.

The creative Swallows, who normally build mud nests on the ledge, made an entirely different kind of nest out of mud.

summerheat1We have been washing down all nests before they are complete or before eggs have been laid.  Hopefully, this will be our last year to battle them.

summerheatThe stems that look like palm trees are getting taller.  They are Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) will reach up high and bloom in late August.

Everyone who sees them at this stage are fascinated by their form.

summerheatdThis year I discovered Soprano Lilac Spoon Daisies (Osteospermum ‘Osjaseclipur’).  It is a hybrid from the Osteospermum family that includes asters and daisies.summerheat4It’s easy to see how it got the spoon name.

summerheateThe petals may widen out on the tips as the plant or the flowers mature.  We’ll see.  It’s not winter hardy.

summerheat5As I was hand watering, at my feet was a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – probably looking for a puddling place.

summerheatfThis is a scented Geranium or Pelargonium ‘velvet rose’.  It is in full sun until late afternoon.  Such a lovely flower with leaves that have a mild rose smell.

Hope your summer is enhanced by flowers.

“Have the maturity to know that sometimes silence is more powerful than having the last word.”  Thema Davis

A Smorgasbord of Color and Form

This spring’s rains has brought exceptionally beautiful sights.  There’s plenty of green and other gorgeous colors all around us.

olioThe first Cone Flower from the Echinacea genus has opened.  Even though the petals aren’t as perfectly formed as later ones will be, the pollinators don’t care.

olio1Drift Roses are covered with masses of blooms.  At the far end of the bed is a Prairie Sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) with its silvery airiness and a mound of gray Santolina (S. chamaecyparissus) with its buds ready to provide small yellow flowers.

olio2I love that drift roses stay under two feet tall and continually bloom through autumn.  To the right of them is Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) which will have brght red flowers in the heat of the summer.

olio3The clusters of roses make a strong visual  impact.

olio4This three year old Privet is blooming for the first time.  From the genus of Ligustrum, Privets are now considered invasive.  I’d be surprised if its seed would take hold in the hard clay in our area.

olio5It smells heavenly.

olio6Pink Guara’s (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’) swaying branches look pretty in our ever present wind.  Beside the pot, the Texas Ash needs the sprouts at the base trimmed away – again.

olio7Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is blooming.  To the left of it, Duranta is slowly growing, awaiting the heat blast of August to bloom.

olio8Pretty stalks of closed buds on Red Yuccas reach up for attention.  In the background is a raised bed that will be shown in the next picture.

Note the pieces of black ground-cover cloth.  They was put down about nine years ago.  Knowing what I know now – it doesn’t keep weeds from growing through the cloth; it hinders planting something new; and seems to last forever –  I definitely would not use it again.

olio9Henry Duelburg Sage (Salvia farinacea Henry Duelberg) continues to perform magnificently after eleven years.

olioaA wonderful plant that bees love.

olioaaTexas native Square Bud Primrose (Onagraceae Calylophus drummondianus var. beriandieri.) is a showy splash of yellow on a low mound of thin grassy stems.

oliobLarkspurs (Delphinium consolida) are providing their surprise locations all over the yard.  Scatter these seeds and have purple flowers popping up everywhere.

In the lower left corner are some native False Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea).

oliobbMore Pink Gaura in a flowerbed.

olioccA copper colored reblooming Iris.

oliodAnd a lavender and yellow one.  Can’t resist snapping pictures of these beauties in the spring.

oliocWe have always called these natives that appear in the yard Lamb’s Ears because they look and feel like the ones sold in nurseries. They have soft, velvety foliage.  But recently I learned that they are actually Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).  They are sure plentiful around here.  My husband loves to mow them down, but I want a few left to grow.

The leaves get about a sixteen inches in size.  Then late in summer a tall stalk will reach about three feet in height and small yellow flowers will form an elongated cluster.  Interesting plant.

Thanks for perusing my blog and enjoy your own green space.

“When a woman wears leather clothing, a man’s heart beats quicker, his throat gets dry, he goes weak in the knees, and he begins to think irrationally.
Ever wonder why?
She smells like a new truck.”  unknown