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 

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Most Unusual Autumn

Rain, Rain, Rain!  So far, rainfall this month has been 11 inches.  To put that into prospective:  the average yearly rainfall here is 27 inches.  The total for 2017 was 19 inches.  So yikes, there’s flooding.  But it’s not as desperate here as it in some Texas towns, like Llano.

The temperatures have fallen in the last week to high 30’s.  Normally at this time, it’s still in the 90’s.  Some Halloweens, poor trick or treaters sweat under their costumes.  This year they may shiver.

I’m using pictures that were taken a week or so ago because we can’t get out of the house.  We also can’t get across the low water crossings because they are dangerously high with fast moving water.

The berries on the Pistachio trees precedes the leaves turning orange.  Pistachio gets bad press because they ‘re native to China.  But they do great here.  Love them.

In between some of the earlier rains, we walked out to one of the ponds.  This Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) caught my eye.  These bushes are in the same family as coffee bushes and are native to southern and eastern U. S.  This and all the other ponds are now flowing over their banks.

In spite of the crazy temperatures and abundant rain, many flowers are still blooming in the yard.  This Purple Oxalis (Oxalis regnelliihas) has survived many years in a pot, which is taken inside for the winter.  The common name of Shamrock comes from the shape of the leaves.

Cooler weather brings out the Reblooming Irises.  The Strawberry Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) will hang on until it freezes.  But, hooray, it reseeds.

Purple Hearts keep on blooming and reaching outwards until it freezes.

Purple asters make their appearance when it cools down. I think these are Aster oblongifolius.

A couple of years ago, I divided them and planted some to come on around the end of this bed.

Thornless Crown of Thorns is a beauty with blooms that last from spring until it freezes.  Since it is not cold hardy, it goes into the shed.  This one is much more human friendly since it doesn’t bring blood if you get near it.

Native and drought tolerant Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris Scaposa (DC.) Greene) are still going strong.  This bed drains well, so they’ve survived all the rain.

Large group of Gomphrena in the back draws the eye to their direction.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensisis) is native throughout the Caribbean, so it’s more tropical than our area location but does well in a container.  I like the long stems with small flowers.  Beside it is a Kalanchoe and a Spider Plant with two Boston Ferns in the back.

We normally moan about the heat and lack of rain.  It’s definitely been an early wet fall.

“Everyone wants happiness.  Nobody wants pain.  But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”  unknown

Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Red Hot Summertime

Back in the days before central air (the dark ages), an afternoon nap was mandated.  We would lie down while Mother read to us.  Soon she would be asleep, and we would be restless and anxious to get outside again.

Today, any work that needs to be done outside must be finished by noon.  This morning I mowed and moved the pots seen in this picture.  So it looks much more manicured now.  Coral Drift Roses still blooming.  If they are deadheaded, they will bloom until frost.

Salvia Greggii holds up well in the heat.

Today there are so many different Geraniums on the market.  The colors and scents vary.  They do better here if they only get indirect sunlight or early morning sun.

Flame Acanthus or Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (A. wrightii)) provides nectar for pollinators.  It can take poor soil, hot sun, and is root hardy to zone 7.

Critters visit off and on all day.

The bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) draws attention like a neon sign.  They are native to Texas and Mexico and are strong reseeding annuals.  Away from the yard, they pop up around the compost heap.

Pink Coneflowers (Echinacea) attract butterflies, who like to land on their dome shape.

Roadrunner strolls across the yard nibbling here and there.  He froze when he sensed my presence at the door.

So thankful for A/C, shade, and iced tea.

“Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.”  Joseph Wood KrutchSave

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Hooray for Hardy

Plants that border on the aggressive can survive in this hard clay and caliche soil and endure the droughts.  Out with the finicky plants.  But I admit that I sometimes fall prey to those pretty flowers in the nursery that I know will not survive here.

Growing beside a county road, this Square Bid Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus)  is a good example of surviving some of the worst conditions.

Also known as Drummond’s Sundrops, that name fits.

Actually, in a flowerbed, it doesn’t spread that much.  Maybe because it gets regular water.  The one on the left was bought this year because the older plant wasn’t filling in the space.

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is a zone 5 – 10 perennial.  Other common names are Scarlet Rosemallow, Crimson Rosemallow, and Wild Red Mallow.

Actually, Star Hibiscus is native to most southern states.  Some people resent that Texas was added to the name.  Guess we were just the first to claim it and name it.  Texans are not known as shy.

Although mine doesn’t bloom frequently, it’s a sight to be behold when it does.

Beach Vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) spreads to hold soil in place.  It is native to seashores around the Pacific.  It was an unidentified plant when I bought it, so it was a surprise to find out its natural environment.

This one is mostly in the shade, so maybe that keeps it confined.

It probably blooms better in full sun.  Ah, well, live and learn.  I certainly don’t plan to dig it up.  It is hardy and entrenched.

American Germander or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) from the mint family is a volunteer plant.  It was probably a gift from birds.

Several plants came up among Pink Guara.

Two of my favorite super hardy and dependable flowers include Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Strawberry globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa).  In my opinion, they are absolute musts for gardens.  They are heavy reseeders, so once you put in a few plants, there will be plenty to share.

Love the color, the shape, and the fact that pollinators flock to them.

Hope your garden is blessing your life.

“Dance like no one is watching.  Email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”  unknownSave

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Oldies but Goodies

One of the pleasures of gardening is the return each year of perennials.  Success with plants is not always the case, so it feels good when it happens.

oldiesOne sure way to achieve success in the garden is to use native plants.  All plants are native somewhere, so planting native always refers to what grows naturally in your neck of the woods.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is one of those wildflowers that comes up wherever it pleases.  If that doesn’t bother you, then it works.   I like the way the white flowers kind of glow.

oldies8Clammy Weed and Zinnas are easy to please – just a little water and sunshine.

oldies1Rose of Sharon also does well here.  Most of my bushes have the flowers that look like Hibiscus.  These have a rose look.

oldies2One of the best plant that gardeners in central Texas can have are Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  Just step up close to them and have butterflies darting all around you.oldies3Blue Mists fill in spaces among other plants.  If you like that, you’re good to go.  If not, put them in a contained flower bed.

oldies44Another beauty is Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus drummondii).  It doesn’t look like it would survive Texas sun, but this plant has been in this spot for eight or nine years.  it’s tough.

oldies4The garden is doing well when all kinds of “good” bugs live there.

oldies5Bright red of these turbans always make me smile.

oldies7Behind the Blue Mist, Mexican Petunias (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’) keep expanding.  This is another one that needs to be contained if you have limited space.

This group all came from one cutting that I took nine years ago.  If you see something you like, then ask permission to take a cutting.  If it doesn’t survive, then nothing lost.

oldies6One of my favorites:  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) was planted many years ago.  I bought it long before I knew anything about it.  It is now a Texas Superstar plant.

Many hardly plants are found in cemeteries.  These were growing on a grave when they were discovered, so they were named for the name on the tombstone.

oldies9Ordinary Morning Glory reminds me of old gardens of the early settlers.  There’s a reason they have been around for years and years.  It’s impossible to kill them.

Just a few seeds from a friend and voila, you’ll have flowers forever.  But they are invasive, so beware.

oldiesaRock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is one of the better behaved natives.  It stays where it is put and is not invasive.

oldiesbPretty little flowers that look more like hibiscus than roses.

oldiescStrawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) does come up profusely.  But it’s a small plant that looks good poking its head up among other flowers.

Neat and tidy in the garden isn’t my thing.

oldiesgCanyon Creek Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’) is fighting to keep its place in a bed since Pink Gaura keeps spreading out.

oldiesdThis bush in the back yard is so bright and cheerful.  I have sought to identify it definitively.

Finally, a nursery man had one like it and told me it was a Texas Flowery Senna (Senna corymbosa).  Other names include Flowering Senna, Tree Senna, and Buttercup Bush.

After about six years, it’s about 6 feet tall and wide.  Great plant.

oldiesfSmall green flying bugs or bees flit from flower to flower.  One is on a petal in the upper middle of the picture.

Wildflowers are just weeds.  So pick the pretty ones you love and plant a few seeds.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”  W. E. Johns

 

Heat Lovers

The title, Heat Lovers, refers to plants, definitely not me.

heatlovingDesignated a Texas Superstar Plant, the Texas Star Hibiscus, doesn’t look like a hibiscus.

heatloving1It has not been a heavy bloomer for me, but the flowers are unique.

heatlovingfTo me, the only reason to plant Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium Greggii A. Gray) is to attract butterflies.  These are truly covered from late spring to late fall with Viceroys.

The Bluemist has spread into Red Yuccas with sharp spikes.

heatloving2Bluemist flowers are small and not that noticeable or impressive.  The purple flowers to the right are a few larkspurs hanging on.

heatlovingg

heatlovingdOn the porch that provides indirect light, A Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) has outgrown its container.  That should be fun to transplant.

It was a pass along plant, and I’ve started several other pots from this plant.  Color of the flowers is so pretty.

heatlovingeIce plant has been in this pot for years.

heatloving3A Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba’) that is a couple of years old has gorgeous blooms.

heatloving4This will grow into a tree with several trunks that arch out from the center.

heatloving5Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is a wildflower that came from the same lady who gave me the Crown of Thorns. The seeds are carried by the wind, so it comes up in unexpected places.

heatloving6Rose of Sharon Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) must be watered regularly to bloom.  But it is so worth it.  The other bush with red blooms is Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica ‘Dynamite’).  Both of these bushes are about 10 years old..

heatloving7Love Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum (L.) Salisb. Ex G. Don SSP Russellianum) and Strawberry Gompheras (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) and Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

heatloving8One of my favorite flowering bushes, Duranta doesn’t begin to bloom until mid July when the temps rev up.

heatlovingaIt is in the verbena family.  The clusters of tiny flowers are breathtaking.

heatloving9Although Duranta does well in our hot, hot summers, it is iffy in cold weather.  Mine is on the east side of the house, so it gets morning sun and no direct northern winds.  A heavy mulch when it starts to get cold protects the roots.  So it’s a great plant if you have just the right place for it.

heatlovingbRecently we bought three new Crape Myrtles from a guy attending a gardening seminar.  He said that they are a new type called ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crepe Myrtle and will grow to 10 – 12 feet tall.

heatlovingcLove the color of the flowers and that they have been blooming since they were planted.

Right after these pictures were taken, some of the branches were broken off and the flowers eaten.  Jackrabbits, I think.  Grrr!   So I put cages around them to protect them.

“… it looks to me like the upcoming U.S. presidential election will force Americans, to paraphrase the great American writer Gore Vidal, to cast their ballot against the evil of two lessers.”  Ted Woloshyn

Gardens at Biltmore

The gardens at Biltmore are fabulous, as expected.

gardensThe wooded garden area is huge, and I doubt that we saw all of it.  It is naturalistic in design, but definitely has some order to it.  There are wide paved paths through sunny and shady areas.

Most of the shrubs were unfamiliar to me.

biltmoreflowersBut a few had labels.  This Weigela (Weigela florida) in the honeysuckle family is gorgeous.

gardens2At one spot, there was a glimpse into the more formal gardens.  The wooden arbor seen here is in the center of the gardens that are laid out symmetrically.

gardensdAt the main steps that lead down into the formal gardens, almost the whole garden is in view.  In the far back is the conservatory with tropical plants.  These were popular on large estates during the Victorian age.  Today, they are found in large public gardens.

gardens4A type of Beebalm, maybe.  A reader provided the information that this is a Centaurea.  Glad to know.

gardens5Tall spikes of Gomphrena pop with the shaded wall background.

gardens6Japanese Iris require an acidic soil, so we certainly cannot grow them here.

gardensaaAlmost all of the flowers were planted in generous groupings.

gardensaaaThe white tree in the background at the right caught my attention.

gardensbCloser, it’s still a mystery.

gardensbbAh ha – a Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus).  I’ve only seen ones with orange blossoms in our area.

gardenscLots of different types of Bearded Irises scattered throughout the garden.

gardensccA large rose garden area had all kinds of different varieties.  It was a little too early in the year for them to be in full bloom.

gardensdd

gardenseBehind the wall at the back of the gardens are greenhouses plus a nursery.

biltmoreflowers3Love the contrasting colors.

gardensf

biltmoreflowers4The Peonies blew me away.

biltmoreflowers6It is just too hot and dry here to grow them.

biltmoreflowers7But, if I could, I’d have a whole yard of them.

biltmoreflowers8Love them all.

gardensgPretty color in the petals but unknown to me.

gardensggThis white plant was very strange and was in two different spots.  I couldn’t tell if they were bulbs that needed to keep their foliage until it all shriveled up or if it was a plant with that color of foliage.

gardenshEuphorbia Lime Green bush.

gardenshhVery striking.

gardensiiThe flower beds along the outside walls were wide and layered.  Very attractive with the wooded garden behind them.  Wonder how they weed?

gardenskClematis

gardenskkAzaleas that must be young plants.

gardensjjIn one corner of the wall was what looked like a house.  I figured it was a storage area for gardening supplies, but it might have been a house for a gardener at one time.  Behind the lady, who was a gardener putting out bedding plants, and to her right is an arched exit that leads into more wooded garden areas.

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”  Lindley Karstens