Indian Summer Blooms

Indian summer has struck again although this time of the year doesn’t follow the strict definition.  There has been no hard frost, yet.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac adheres to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s (November 11) brings out Indian summer.”

It certainly feels like an Indian summer because we’ve enjoyed a spell of wonderful cool nights and days.  But now we are back in the grips of heat with highs in the low 90’s and harsh sun rays lashing out at us.

stillbloomingpThe purple Fall Asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) came out when it turned cool.  Since they are hardy, maybe they will last for a while in spite of the heat.

stillbloomingrTheir color has faded.  While waiting for them to fill out with flowers, I sacrificed getting a picture with their deeper color.

Really must force myself to divide them after the last freeze next year.  That just happens to be when everything needs attention.

stillbloomingqA great autumn plant.

stillbloomingoThe Strawberry Fields Gomphera  (Gomphrena haageana) just keeps on shining.  One of my best purchases.

autumninpots3This Ice Plant is on a covered porch, but the late afternoon sun still shines on it.

autumninpots4Very heat hardy but dies in a freeze.  So some must be brought in for a start for next year.

autumninpots1The Autumn Sedum  (Sedum  spectabile ‘Brilliant’ Stonecrop) has started blooming, although the renewed summer weather has stopped that.

autumninpots2Maybe when it gets cool again, they will finish blooming.

autumninpotsAll of these pots are in the shade most of the day with a little afternoon light hitting them.

autumninpotspost6Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)  is in a pot under a large Live Oak tree. So it is in the shadows all day but gets indirect light and seems very happy.

crownofthornsAnother Crown of Thorns is on a covered porch but gets lots of low late afternoon light.  It has flourished since the top was cut off which caused branching and a fuller plant .  The plant behind it is Oxalis.

Weather wishing doesn’t work, but that doesn’t stop most of us from trying it.  I do want some of those cool days to return.

“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” Thomas Sowell

Still Blooming

Most of the perennials in my yard are going to seed.  But there are still a few blooms to enjoy.  This year everything had a late start and now an early ending.  But I’m not quite ready to call it a day in the garden, yet.

stillbloomingBloodflower (Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’) returned this year but in different spots from where it was planted.  Guess the wind and birds helped out a little.  This flower is also known as Swallow-wort, Butterfly Weed, Mexican Milkweed, and Scarlet Milkweed.

So far, it has remained a small plant in my flowerbed but is still visited by many butterflies.

stillblooming1One of the tried and true performers is Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), which is covered with Viceroy butterflies from spring until cold weather.  From my kitchen window, the tops look brown because of the butterflies.

stillblooming2Just a few more flowers left on the French Hollyhock (Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrena’).  The stems are covered with seed pods.  I’ve been busy gathering seeds from many different plants.  The Garden Club has a seed exchange in November.  This year I will be ready.

stillbloomingkThis Oleander was planted this spring.  The peachy petals attracted me, plus the hardiness of this plant.  The highway departments in several southwestern states plant them out in arid areas.  The sprinkler system doesn’t reach this one, so I’ve been carrying buckets to get it established.  Next year, it should survive mostly on whatever falls from the sky.

stillblooming3 Now it has fewer flowers but is still going.

A local rancher reminded me that they are poisonous.  He was still upset that a neighbor had some Oleanders that one of his cows has eaten and later died.  This was many years ago.  I assured him that I planted this one and some others in a fenced in area.  Now if cows somehow get out of their fenced pasture into another person’s yard, I’m sympathetic but don’t place the blame on the person growing the Oleander.

stillblooming4Another dependable bloomer is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana).  Everyone warns that they are invasive.  Hey, if it’s invasive, maybe it has a chance to survive our rocky clay soil and hot summers.  If last year was an indication, we can add cold winters to that list of hurdles for plants.

stillblooming5This pot of Rose Moss bloomed really well this year.  Next year, it should probably be divided.

stillbloomingfThe three Dynamite Crape Myrtles still have some bright red blossoms.  Though not as many as in this picture because it was taken a few weeks ago.  They do brighten their corner.

stillblooming8Even though they are laying on the ground, the Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum) keep on blooming.  Legginess has been a problem this year for them.  I’m not sure exactly what that means.  Maybe too much water from the sprinkler system.  In the fields, they appear after showers, which means we haven’t seen any growing wild this year.

stillbloomingmThe grasshoppers have also done a number on their petals.

stillbloomingoA patch of Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana) is behind the Texas Bluebells in a front flowerbed.  They multiplied beyond my hopes.  They are also named Rio Grande Globe Amaranth and are native to Texas and Mexico and love our hot weather.  But not many people around here are familiar with them.  I found them in Austin last year.

Just trying to enjoy the color that’s left in the yard because it will be gone soon.  Hope you have some special plants, songs, or whatever that brings you joy every day.  Plus,  the most important joy of all – a loved one to hug.

“Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.”  Old farmer adage

That’s Odd

The biggest anomaly this year is the weather.  So far, we’ve only had three days of 100 or 100+ degrees.  It’s August!  That is so odd that everyone talks about the beautiful weather all the time.

Most areas around us have had several rains.  We have not, but there have been many cloudy days.

Nice summer, indeed.

oddSeveral times when I have gone into the shed, a lizard would be in the bottom of a bucket.  He must has have fallen from the ceiling.  I would dump him into the yard, but there he would be again the next day.  I don’t know if it was the same one or not.  If so, he’s a slow learner.

odd2One day from my kitchen window, I saw a 5 to 6 foot snake slithering across the grass and climbing into a tree.  By the time I could react and find my camera, he was already in the higher branches of a small Red Oak.

odd3I could never find his head for a photo.

odd4Just a Bull snake, I think.  I hope.

odd5Why is this scene strange?  Because it reminded me of a green idyllic meadow.  Usually, the grasses are dry like straw.  But here the yellow is wildflowers.  “Cows are in the meadow”… type photo.

odd6The purple Balloon flowers or Chinese Bell Flowers have not bloomed much this year.  Many of the ones that opened were white.  For the past eight years, they have been heavy bloomers.  Don’t know what happened.

odd7This is like one of those pictures where one’s eyes have to adjust and focus by staring to see the image.  The heads of Dill (Anethum graveolens)  are full of seeds.  Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar are supposed to feed on dill, although I have not seen them.

odd8Mowing around a flower bed of Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) brings on a flurry of rising butterflies swirling around me.  The flowers are small but obviously a favorite of Viceroys.

oddcThe compost heap behind a shed is producing vines.

The blue lid from a barrel is to cover food scraps and discourage racoons who often climb over the wire barrier.  Unfortunately, if they want to move the lid, they can.

odd9There are two different kinds of vines.  Last year we had canteloupe grow here.

oddbA Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) plant found its way here and is blooming.

oddaThis one looks like it is producing yellow summer squash.

I don’t often remember to pour water on the decaying compost.  But when I see the vines, it reminds me to do so.

odddWhy is this mule sniffing or eating a small cedar?  Don’t know.

praying mantisThis Praying Mantis appears to be in the process of molting, which they do several times during their lifetime.

snyderWhat is this plant, you ask.  This photo was taken in West Texas.  Those are actually plastic stems from an artificial plant.  Given the fact that watering is severely rationed, it seems like an interesting solution.

“A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”    Old cowboy adage

Robust Flower Bed

Still have the same dilemma that I always have when planting.  Beds usually become too crowded because the plants get bigger than I imagined they would.  Or there is too much space around the plants.

frontbedhjpgThis bed is visible from the front porch and front windows.

frontbeddI like the colors and the plants individually but overall design needs work.

frontbedbThe yellow border is made up of Stonecrop Sedum.  From a small start taken from my mother’s yard, I have scattered it around in several beds.  This year I put some around the edge of one end of this bed to create a border.

The positive characteristics of this sedum is that it roots and spreads quickly, is drought tolerant, and covers nicely.

frontbed8As soon as summer heats up, the yellow will disappear and leave tall dead stems that will need to be cut off, unless they don’t bother you.  The green will become a dull greyish green.  So it’s not a perfect plant.

frontbedcThis is the first Butterfly Weed (Asclepias) I’ve had that is covered in blooms with a bright orange color.  I have two others in a different bed that look pretty bland.

This plant seems misnamed because it doesn’t attract butterflies like other plants that grow nearby.

frontyard614uIn front of the Butterfly Weed Bush is a native Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) that has filled out this year.  A friend assured me that I would like it when she gave it to me.  And she’s right even though the blooms are not large.

frontbed1These Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum) have spread and bloomed like crazy this year.  These were also a pass-along from a friend.

frontbedNot sure which specific Gomphera these are, but they are a neon magenta color.  I planted them because I didn’t think last year’s Gomphera were coming back.

frontbedmThe Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) have gotten leggy this year, so they are susceptible to being trampled by whatever creatures stomp through them at night.

Some interesting facts about Texas Bluebells:
The Japanese have been breeding them for over 70 years and know them as Lisianthus.  They have developed pink, white and deep purple varieties with both single and double petals.

Texas Bluebells are little known now because they are so pretty.  People have picked them so much that the native flowers haven’t been able to reseed in the wild.

frontbed7Bluebell are delicate looking flowers but are hardy in nature, if left alone.

frontbedkThis monster just keeps growing.  If it didn’t die in the winter, it might just take over the yard.  I don’t remember what it is, but it was bought at a Lady Bird Johnson Center sale, so it’s a native.

frontbedlSandwiched between that plant on the left and the Cone Flowers on the right is another mystery plant.  I don’t think I planted it, but it grew here last year, too.  I keep waiting for it to bloom hoping to identify it.  The leaves look like those of a mum.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, it’s out of here.

frontbedjThe Cone Flowers(Echinacea) did a great job of reseeding because many more are coming up.  The Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) with the red flowers did return but apparently did not seed.  I’m still hoping that some of those seeds will set for next year.

frontbedaLove the look and color of these Coneflowers.

frontbediThe Blue Curls bush (Phacelia congesta) also is growing like a weed.

frontbed9The Blue Curls flowers on stalks are a soft muted purple.

frontbednIn fact, the bush has gotten so big that the wind whirligig won’t move.

frontbed4The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) also is jammed up against a bush.  Small clumps came up all around the original plants.  I have moved several to get a fuller look at this end of the bed, but some four legged varmits keep digging them up.

Makes me wonder if I’ll ever get it right.  I like a nice full look, but not this crowded.

frontbedfLast year three small Strawberry Fields Gompheras (Gompherena haageana) were planted here.  I asked the man at the nursery if they would reseed.  He said “Maybe.”

This year I had given up hope but the other day noticed the mass of tiny plants.

frontbedfgjpgThey are already blooming and getting their height.  So I have plenty of Gompheras to share.

Guess I’ll keep muddling along trying to get the look I want in the flower beds.

“The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.'”  Unknown

Wintertime Yard

When it’s cold but dry outside, I sometimes wander around in the yard looking for some beauty in forms or at least, something unusual.

winteryardThese Coneflowers (Echinacea) are a good place to start.  I like their spiky ball shape and the way the light creates different color tones.  The name Echinacea comes from the Greek word meaning sea urchin.  That spiny center certainly looks like one.

This past year Coneflowers became one of my favorite flowers because the petals and central disk have bright colors and demand attention.

winteryard2The branches and seed pods on this Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta) strikes me as interesting.  In a state known for its Bluebonnets, this native loses out on the spotlight.  But it has beautiful light blue bell shaped blossoms that grow on curling stems.

winteryard3The dried flower heads of Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana) in their winter gold make me anxious for their bright red color to return.  Lots of seeds should have fallen to produce a good crop this coming spring.  Another fave.

winteryard4A few orange-rust colored leaves cling to this Flame Acanthus (Acanthaceaae Anisacanthus wrightii) creating a stained glass window look.  Maybe my imagination is too strong.

winteryard6Bare branches emphasis a characteristic of the Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).  The bark loses its outer layers on the trunk and larger branches.

winteryard5As with other white oaks, the Chinkapin is a hardwood used in building construction.

winteryard7The curly leaves of Woodland Ferns take on an artistic look in the winter.  They are crisp and look like they would crumble easily.  But past experience reminds me that they are difficult to pull out of the bed to prepare for new shoots in the spring.  So I use loppers to chop them off at the ground.

With little shade in my yard, they occupy the only flowerbed that receives almost no direct light.

winterskyHow fortunate we are to live where the skies are clear and vast.  When I think of all the millions of people who only see smog when they look up, it makes me sad for them.

wintersky2Love the buttermilk sky.

Plants, trees, and skies remind of God’s daily grace.

“Counting other people’s sins does not make one a saint.”  Unknown

Bold Red

Guess I’ve mentioned before that I really love the way red flowers brighten up an outside space.  It’s so strong and vibrant.  This post shows some examples.

redspheresThese Strawberry Field Gomphrenas (Gomphrena haageana) really do remind me of strawberries.  These are the first ones I’ve tried, so I hope they love the heat, as advertised.

redsphereLove the red with little yellow tips that look like stars.

victor crepeThe flowers on this Victor Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Victor’) don’t look as deep a red as the picture on the label indicated.  But it has just started blooming, so we’ll see.   I’m counting on the dwarf size promised on the tag.

turkscapThe bright red flowers of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) stand out against the dark green leaves.

turkscap2This variety of Turk’s Cap is named after a Scotsman, Thomas Drummond, who traveled to America in 1830 to collect plant specimens from western and southern US.  He spent twenty-one months in parts of Texas.  He also noted 150 species of birds.

turkAlthough I don’t know who named this plant Turk’s Cap, it comes from its resemblance to the old turbans worn by the men in the Ottoman Empire.  This is a painting of Mehmet the Conqueror who ruled in the 1400’s.  He ended the Byzantine Empire and set up the Ottoman Empire composed of Turkish tribes.

When the Ottoman Empire fell at the end of WWI,  Mustata Kemal Ataturk set up a democratic government in Turkey and eliminated the use of turbans, fezs and the Ottoman script.  He is known as the father of the modern Turks.

turkscap3My Turk’s Cap has survived very well in full sun and is a reliable perennial.  It is now on the Texas Star plant list.

dynamitecrepe3This Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit II’) has bicolor blossoms this year.

dynamitecrepeSo I’m guessing that this variety of Crape Myrtle is the result of cross breeding.  Maybe the bush is now producing the two colors from those original different types.

dynamitecrepe2The three bushes I have are seven years old and are covered with showy flowers this year

“One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame we have killed off so much real shame as well.”  Louis Kronenberger.

Country Garden Visit

On a sunny day the last week of September a group of 10 people from the Brownwood Garden Club went to visit friends outside of Decatur.  They have lived there for about 35 years.

First, a disclaimer, these pictures were made in the middle of the day when the bright sun fades everything out.  Plus, I was using a new camera that still needs some adjustments.

Even though they are about 175 miles northeast of us, their soil and weather conditions are similar to what we have on the ranch:  caliche and rock with a little clay topsoil and sparse rain.  The yard is large and has several flowerbeds:  one is the length of the yard.

There were lots of clumps of spider lilies (the red flowers on the left) blooming this time of the year.

Many kinds of butterflies were everywhere landing on plants and people.  The red cockscomb reminds me of my childhood.  I grew up in West Texas, so we didn’t have many flowers or grass in our yard.  But Mother did always have some cockscombs.

This vine on an arch was new to me.  It is Cypress Vine, also called Star Glory.  I love it.  If only I had another place for a vine.

This is Mexican Oregano, which is at the end of its blooming season.  It is hardy and reseeds easily.

These pink puff flowers are gomphrena “fireworks’ and the orange-red is gomphrena “strawberry fields”.  Both are semi perennial and reseed easily.

The gardens are planted according to the amount of water required by the plants in each bed.  So here is a cactus type group with metal roadrunners right at home.

The gardener said the purple flowers are on a potato plant that she found on a sale table at a major nursery.  She’ll update me on how it makes it through the winter. This gardener’s main love is Texas natives.  That’s practical – don’t fight the environment.  The tall plant in back with yellow flowers is a Texas Gold Star, a type of esperanza.

Because of older trees, there are several shaded garden areas.

I’m a sucker for any scene that screams “country”.

These gourds were grown from seeds that came from Mexico.  They can be used in cooking when pulled from the vines when they are a yellow squash size.  In fact, we were served gourd bread (made like a pumpkin bread) that was very tasty.

These pictures just give a peek into this garden.  Our gracious hosts opened their home and garden for a lovely day of wandering around and asking questions.

“My father asserted that there was no better place to bring up a family than in a rural environment.  There’s something about getting up at 5 a.m., feeding the stock and chickens, and milking a couple of cows before breakfast that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of butter and eggs.” Bill Vaughan