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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Finally…

…rain, rain, rain and a lot of it for this area in August.  Hooray.  Week before last was an inch and over six inches this past week.  Lower temps and water – what a blessing.

finallyTo see raindrops on plants is awesome.  Everything, including this Purple Heart, needed some relief.

finally1And maybe the moisture will chase away the grasshoppers.

finally2…some beads on the Eve’s Necklace tree (Sophora affinis) after a 3 year wait.  Maybe all this extra water will end the choleric leaf condition.

finally3… the Bougainvilla is blooming.  On the advice of a friend, I tried plant food for Camellias to prod the plant to flower.  That filled the branches with healthy looking leaves but no flowers.  Then, by chance, I noticed food specifically for Bougainvillas at a big box store.

It took a couple of weeks before I saw results.  But suddenly, boom, the blooms appeared.

finally4Love the neon color.

finally6…I bought a pepper plant with purple leaves.  A well known horticulturist in Texas stated that he thought we should only have plants with green leaves, as nature intended.  But I decided that I liked the variety of colors available.

finally7No peppers yet but adds interest.

finally5… a small native Rio Grande Copper Lily (Habranthus tubishpathus (L’Her.) Traub) that I planted years ago has started blooming again.  The Mexican Feather Grass had taken over that spot, so it may have been blooming all along.  But I spotted it the other day and was pleased to see that it had survived.

finally8…a Crape Myrtle with black leaves – Black Diamond Red Hot.  They’ve been around for a few years but are new to my yard.  Not sure if they are as hardy as the other Crape Myrtles.

finally9…a fern that can take full sun.  Really.  I’ve tested it.  The friend that I got this from did not know what kind it is.  Internet research hasn’t found one that is an exact match.

The original I received was small.  It has grown and also put out some pups.

finallya…a motivation to always trim back the Autumn Clematis in the winter.  This is what happens when vines are full and get soaked with rain several days in a row.  Fell completely over.

finallybThe concrete holding the trellis just popped right out of the ground.

finallycA few blooms can be seen on the sides.

heatgoeson9In full bloom last year.  Lesson learned.

As a child, time seemed interminable waiting for things like Christmas to come.  Guess as an adult, we still get anxious for some things like rain to happen.

“A recent study has shown that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.”  unknown

The Heat Goes On

Sonny and Cher’s “The beat goes on, the beat goes on, Drums keep pounding A rhythm to the brain” resonates as the sun beats down without relief and the heat goes on.

heatgoesonThankfully, some plants thrive in the heat.  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is one of those exceptional plants for sun, heat, drought, and poor soil that are reliable, once established.

heatgoeson7Three plants were planted nine years ago in this bed and have been stars every year.

heatgoeson8This angle is from the other end of the bed.  A trellis with Passion vine is on the right and a Texas Star Hibiscus is at the other end.

heatgoeson4Bumble bees cover this whole bed from spring until late fall.

heatgoeson5The Passion Vine (Passiflora Incarnata) was planted seven years ago and was full and beautiful for years.  The flowers are unique and are show stoppers.

heatgoeson6The black and orange caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly feeds on Passion Flower leaves.  Sometimes they eat so many that the plant dies back.  Last year the vine did not return, so I thought it was gone.  Strangely, I rarely see any of that particular butterfly in the yard.

This year the vine came back and has flowered again.  So I guess the root system was well established.

heatgoeson3The large Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bushes still have some blossoms.

heatgoeson2I watched bees duck into the flowers and crawl all around the stigma.  Then their bodies were covered with white pollen.

heatgoeson9Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata) has a strong sweet vanilla scent.  Sight alone doesn’t let you truly experience this vine.  The smell and the buzzing sounds envelope you as you draw close to it.  Some people don’t like the smell, but I love it.

heatgoesonaBees that aren’t  bumble bee provide the audio part.  They are smaller than bumble bees and are so fast that I couldn’t get a picture.  Plus, they stay mostly in the depths of the thick vine.

heatgoesonbThe name Autumn Clematis is a misnomer because they start blooming in the hottest part of the summer during the middle or last of August.  By any cooler temperatures that we have in October, the flowers are all gone.

But it is pretty much evergreen through the winter.  That actually makes it harder to cut it back.  I have tried not cutting it back.  It just becomes so thick that the inner branches die.

Flowers that bloom in our hot, dry climate are a blessing that I truly appreciate.

“Don’t worry if plan A fails, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.”   Anonymous

Misnamed

Names are funny things; from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom, they can be extremely strange.  Take the Duck-billed Platypus for instance.  When the British scientists first saw a pelt in the late 1700’s, they thought it was a hoax produced by a taxidermist.  Looking at a picture, the duck bill part seems pretty obvious.  But “platypus” is the Latin version of a Greek word that means broad, wide, flat foot.  Can you think of another name that is more descriptive?  What does this have to do with anything?  Nothing, I guess.  Just musing.

Some plants are misnamed, in my humble opinion.  I’ll explain with two examples.

misnamed Autumn Clematis starts blooming the first of August and is pretty much done before autumn even begins in our area.  It is not even the middle of September yet and most of the blooms have already dropped off.  This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.

misnamed1The short time it does bloom, the vine is covered with snowy white small flowers.  I read recently that someone hated the smell of them.  It is strong but doesn’t seem unpleasant to me.  In fact, I think it’s an attribute.

Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) has naturalized in Texas to the point that it is sometimes called a wildflower.  But I’ve never seen it in the wild.

misnamed2Also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis, it is poisonous if eaten.

It needs to be pruned each winter or it becomes extremely thick.  I speak from experience and don’t look forward to cutting it back this winter since I did not do that chore last year.

misnamed6The patch of white growing in a low spot in the field is Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata).  It is a native that provides a freshness in the landscape during the last days of summer.  I guess the white does resemble snow on a tall stem, but still seems like a misnomer, at least in our sunny, hot area.

latesummer1Snow on the Mountain tends to grow in thick patches unless they have been removed with equipment.  Then it takes a few years to recover the colony.

latesummer5When seen from the road, it just looks like a mass of white.

latesummer8The stem is rather thick as well as the leaves.

latesummer3Up close, the intricate parts of the flowers look like tiny flowers on top of other flowers.

latesummerTwo totally different plants with white blooms to enjoy as we wait for autumn.  Will we have a true fall this year?  That is always uncertain here in the center of Texas.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Sweet Autumn Clematis

After a high of 105 degrees on Friday, yesterday and today we are having fall like days.  With lows in the 60s and highs in the 80s, this is autumn to us.  The 100 plus temperatures have gotten to be a real drag.  Summer will return again before winter comes.  We just enjoy the little bursts of cooler weather that come between the hot days.  So it’s a perfect day to talk about Sweet Autumn Clematis (clematis ternifolia) which is in its full glory at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn time.

This one grows on a free standing trellis, but it would look beautiful spreading out on a fence.  Originally I had planted a Carolina Jasmine vine here because they did well in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, where we came from.  They definitely don’t grow here.  And it’s not just me.  Others have told me their tales of failure with Carolina Jasmine here.

Two years ago in the spring a Garden Club friend in Brownwood gave me a small Sweet Autumn Clematis vine.  I planted it here and forgot about it because I had not had success with clematises before.  Was I blown away that fall when it bloomed.

The wonderful aroma (hence, the name “sweet”) is to die for.  And the mass of flowers will cover the vines.Sweet autumn clematis is indigenous to Japan and can be grown in zones 4-9.  This one gets almost full sun.  It’s tolerant of most soils as long as it drains well.   It blooms on this year’s growth.  My friend cuts hers down to the ground in the winter.  I haven’t been that brave. I cut out the thickness of the vines so there is room for new growth.

Some people complain that it’s too invasive.  So far, I’m happy that it thrives where it is.

The name clematis comes from the Greek word klema which means twig or branch.

Just can’t say enough good things about this vine.  Love it, love it.

“Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.”  Unknown