Indian Summer

After the threat of a freeze two weeks ago, we lugged in most of the potted plants and covered others with sheets.  It was in the mid thirties for two days.  Then back up to the middle 90’s since then.  With some record highs, it’s a crazy Texas autumn.

Although some gardeners don’t consider it worthwhile to take Coleus in for the winter, I do.  Sure, I could buy new ones in the spring, but then I wouldn’t have this one that came from a friend’s mother.

In the warm shed, Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) bloomed again.  That’s the pretty pink ones at the top.  The other pink ones are Crown of Thorns.  Note the sharp thorns that define them.

Another pot of Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) that was gingerly carried inside.  Those thorns reach out and grab your skin.

Most of the plants, like this White Plumbago (Plumbago Auriculata Escapade White), were looking spiffy.  Re-flowering occurred after the summer heat had ended and some pleasant days of 70s were a boon to us all.

Ditto for the Purple Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) or Sky Flower.

It’s a shame these flowers are all in the shed where I can’t enjoy their last hurrah.  But the rule in our household is that once the plants are carried inside, that’s where they will stay until spring.

Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) was looking good.  If we lived just a couple of zones south of here, the evergreen foliage would survive the winter and be good to go next year.

Can’t get much cheerier than this color.

Same with American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).  It might be okay here, but I don’t want to take a chance.  We just might have a hard freeze sometime this winter.

I really hated to hide this beauty away.  The cooler temperatures had brought back all its glory.  Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) is one showy plant.

Some bulbs, like this Stella de Oro Daylily have been reblooming.

Dianthus or Pinks (Dianthus ssp.) should die down during the winter, but return in the spring.

In the fields, good ole Prairie Verbena or Sweet William (Verbena bipinnatifia)  blooms and blooms.

There’s always the roses to enjoy.  This flower on Belinda’s Dream (Rosa hybrida Belinda’s Dream) reminds of the kid Arnold Horshack in “Welcome Back Kotter” with his hand waving in the air, demanding attention.

Belinda’s Dream definitely deserves attention.  It was the first rose chosen as an Earthkind Rose and is still a hardy, disease resistant, consistent performer.  Love it.

The bright fire engine red of Show Biz Rose (Rosa Tanweieke)  keeps on blooming.  it is a floribunda rose that was hybridized by Tantau and introduced in 1985.  To me, it’s a reminder of our visit to the Biltmore where we bought it at their nursery.

The plants in my yard are friends that bring memories of certain people or places.  Thanks for taking time to read my blog.

“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take you breath away.”  anonymousSave

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Spring Fed River

While in San Angelo recently, we enjoyed strolling through a small park area bordering the Concho River.  The key to success in public park spaces is meeting the needs of local people and knowing what grows well in your area.

The sight of this spring fed river in dry West Texas always makes me feel good.

Although this area is beside a major road, it is quiet and peaceful.  The deep shade of what I think is Arizona Cypress (Cupressus Arizonica) is a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

A  soothing spot to while away an morning or afternoon.

Continuing our walk, we cross the river on the foot bridge.

The Concho River in West Texas seems like a strange place for a mermaid statue, but is actually appropriate since she is holding a Concho freshwater mussel that produces gorgeous pearls in many colors.  The pink one is probably the most well known, even from the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

The sculptor, Jayne Charless Beck, was a San Angelo resident artist who passed away in 1993.  After his death, this bronze casting of “The Pearl of the Concho” was donated to the city.

This memorial for 9/11 victims displays 2,996 flags for the victims.

A metal cross stands in the center of the memorial.

Several plantings of Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate) provide a coolness to the area.  It is native to South Africa and survives in zones 8 – 11.

This combo with Texas Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) contrasts the brightness of the yellow and the calming effect of the blue.

The draping of the Blue Plumbago’s long branches is an additional plus.

In the right zone, Plumbago is easy to grow.  Unfortunately, for me it is an annual and has to be grown in a pot.

Yellow Bells also require mild winters, but the problem can be solved with heavy mulching and some kind of cover over the roots.

Grass plantings are very popular.  This is Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) with an Autumn Salvia Greggii (Salvia greggii) in front.

Some consider Mexican Feather Grass to be invasive.  It has not been for me, but the top half of the plant should be cut off in winter to keep it from flopping and looking messy.

Salvia greggii should also be cut back severely in winter.  Otherwise, it becomes too leggy.  The species has several different flower colors.

I think this is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetumsetaceum ‘Rubrum’), which is hardy in zones 9 – 11.  It’s used as an annual in larger Texas cities.

Mugwort or Artemisia  (Artemisia vulgaris) placed in the middle of Mexican Feather Grass adds a lovely softness.

Salvia Greggii can be overused because of its hardiness, but this park has just a few scattered here and there.

One of my favorite ornamental trees or large bushes is Chaste Tree, Abraham’s balm,  Monk’s pepper or Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).  They are just so reliable for our dry areas, plus they have gorgeous purple flower clusters.  After the flowers die, the cluster of berries can be dried and used in arrangements.

Before turning around, we stopped outside of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts that we had previously visited a few weeks before this trip.

Potato Vine with Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and maybe a Bougainvillea that isn’t blooming.

Nothing is as refreshing as a walk through nature, even if it’s in the city or maybe, because it’s in the city.

“We always want the best man to win an election.  Unfortunately, he never  runs.”                   Will Rogers Save

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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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Container Uses

Flowerpots can be the solution to several problems for gardeners.

containersIf there isn’t enough shade in the yard, pots can be tucked under a tree, like this large Live Oak just on the edge of our backyard.

Plants like this Moon Flower or Datura (Datura Wrightii Regel) could not take the full force of the sun that blasts most of my yard.  It’s also known as Jimsonweed, Angel Trumpet, and Sacred Thorn Apple.  The species name honors Charles Wright who collected plants in Texas, Cuba, and his native Connecticut in the mid to late 1800s.

This semi-shady spot also addresses other issues.  Since I’m not sure Moon Flower can handle a freeze, being portable means it can go into a shed for the winter.

containers1Makes a peaceful setting, too.

containers4aAnother plant that needs shade or filtered shade is this Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius).  This came from a friend who gave me one umbrella top with a short stem.  The instructions were to place the top upside down in a jar of water.  When it rooted, it could be planted it in soil.  Weird way to root a plant, but it worked.

containers3Under this tree has also become sort of a plant refuge or hospital station.  Whenever a plant needs to recover, it goes here.  The Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica)  came from a sale at a regional garden club meeting.  I didn’t know the seller and couldn’t ask questions.  As it turns out, not all salvia can survive our sun.  When it began looking sickly, I moved here it, where it has done very well.

containers4bIt has also proved to be a good place for Poinsettias to hang out during the summer.  The heat didn’t seem to be a problem, but direct sunlight is.

containers4cPots on a semi shady porch also work well for plants like Ice Plant.

containers7And Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii).

containers4Another helpful use for containers is when you buy a plant but don’t have a place to put it in the ground.  The White Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) will probably stay in a pot and be carried inside during the winter.  The dark foliage Crape Myrtle will eventually go in the ground.

Notice that there are all kinds of pots.  Some people like all their pots to be alike or at least the same color.  I just enjoy variety in plants and pots.

containers5This Salvia Greggii will be planted in a flowerbed whenever we create a new one.  Can you hear my husband groaning?

containers8Sometimes, pots are testing grounds to see how a plant will do.  It can easily be moved to find the perfect conditions it needs.  So far, this Bamboo Muhley (Muhlenbergia dumosa) seems happy on a porch where it gets morning sun and afternoon semi-shade.

containers6aPlants that absolutely must go into the green house in the winter are in pots, like this Orange African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens).  This one and another are 10 years old.

Behind it is Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) and an Echeveria hybrid (Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’) that are destined for the green house again this winter.

containers7aSometimes a spot of color can brighten a corner, like this tropical Ixora in the Rubiaceae family.  Great use of a potted plant.

containers7abSince we carry so many pots inside for the winter, we no longer use heavy ones.  Although I do love the look of expensive large ceramic pots, that just isn’t feasible.The light weight plastic ones have come a long way in performance and looks.

“You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.”  Harry S. Truman

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

Surviving the Heat

The unrelenting sun is taking its toll.  Some things, like the Cone Flowers, are wilting faster than usual.  This is my fault because I haven’t done a good job of watering flowerbeds this year.

I read that the heavy rains in the spring work as a detriment when the inferno of summer comes because our plants are not accustomed to going from wet soil to dry.

surviving1Potted plants, like this Kalanchoe, that have the advantage of mostly shade survive fine.  They don’t mind the heat, just the sun.

surviving9A different Kalanchoe thrives outside in the shade.

surviving7Orange Marmalade Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’) or Firecracker Flower has done surprisingly well in mostly shade.  It, too, likes the heat and humidity, but not the sun.  No humidity here, so it must not be absolutely necessary for this plant.

survivingbIt definitely is an attention getter on the front porch.  Looks goods against the pot of Dusty Miller succulent.  This pot goes into the heated shed for the winter.

survivingcThe part of the stem just below the flower is the seed pods.  Each little point contains a seed of roughly the same shape.

survivingThis Desert Rose (Adenium obesumlso) needs winter protection.  Mine only seems to bloom right after it comes out of the shed in early spring.  They are known more for their trunks that are bulbous at the bottom than their flowers.survivingaMore pot plants:  pepper plant and Boston Fern to the back left.  The Woodland Fern on the right is in the ground.

surviving5Out by a shed is a Plumbago with white flowers, a Scented Geranium, a Crepe Myrtle with black leaves and a Mexican Oregano.

surviving6Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) with pink tubular flowers.

survivingbbAn Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa in a large pot with Purple Heart behind it.  In its native land, it grows in grasslands with well drained soil.  Further south in Texas, it does well directly in the ground.  Here it is an annual that must be protected in the winter.

survivingccThis rose, The Showbiz Rose, is in a pot because right now I don’t have a place available in a flowerbed.  It is a heavy blooming floribunda.

It was purchased at the nursery at Biltmore.  Really, I should never be allowed to walk through a nursery just to look.

survivingdBut who could resist this beauty?

Now that you’ve seen some of my plants in pots, is it any wonder that my husband dreads the end of fall and the beginning of spring?

surviving3Now to some easy care plants, like this New Gold Lantana.  Basically, put it in the ground and forget about it.

surviving4Mexican Petunias have finally become aggressive after about 10 years.  Easy as pie if you have enough space for them.

survivingeA skittish Cardinal enjoying seeds in the grass.  Usually, they bolt at the slightest movement.

surviving2I was rather late coming to the fad of grasses as yard plants.  But I do like Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima).  I’ve read that it can be invasive, but so far, that hasn’t been the case here.

“Misers are not fun to live with, but they are great ancestors.”  Tom Snyder