Along the Roadsides

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, Texas roadsides are filled with wildflowers in the spring.  She was the catalyst for changes to the highway department treatment of the land along highways.

First, the strips of land along the pavement were seeded with wildflowers in the autumn.  Then, mowing was delayed in the spring until after the wildflowers went to seed.

Now we Texans are known for our love of Bluebonnets, which bloom in early spring.  But I think the wildflowers that follow in later spring are just as spectacular.

The flowers that are seeded along the highway spread into the fields.

Love the fields of yellow.

There are lots of different yellow flowers that are seen in the fields.  But these are Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).

This year a nice surprise was seeded.  Massive drifts of Basket Flower (Centaurea americana) were lovely.  This is the first time that I can remember that this wildflower has been used by the highway maintenance department in our area.

I suspect that the reason they haven’t been seeded before is because some people might mistake them for thistles, which are very invasive and are not desirable.

In fact, several different thistles thrive in our climate. Now sure if this one is Mexican Thistle, New Mexican Thistle or Texas Thistle.

Although it is quite pretty, beware, the foliage is prickly.  Tiny needles will cut into bare skin.  The smooth foliage of a Basket Flower is one way to distinguish it from a thistle.

Where one thistle grows this year, hundreds will grow next year.

Here, Basket Flowers are mixed in with thistle.

Another wildflower that has been more prevalent in our area this year is Horsemint (Monarda citriodora).  It’s one of my favorites.

Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) usually has a brown splotch on the top of each petal.  These solid yellow petals are unusual.

And the central disc with the seeds is especially long.

Some of the more aggressive wildflowers are not seeded, such as these Beggar’s Lice (Torilis arvensis)  on our county road.  They look pretty from the car, but they are a menace in the yard.  They are also called hedge parsley or wild carrot.

As the flowers dry up, their seeds stick to anything like lice, so they can repopulate the world.  This year, we tried to pull them early, so that seeds wouldn’t fall to the ground.

The thing is, they first look like Queen Anne’s Lace, so it’s tempting not to get rid of them.  But I learned my lesson a few years ago.

Antelope Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is another native that spreads easily.  When the brown seed pods open up, hundreds of tiny puffs will float, like dandelions tufts, to germinate in other spots.

Since milkweed is the only plant where Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, it is essential for their survival.  When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars then consume the leaves of the milkweed.  Even though it isn’t the prettiest wild flower around, it vital to not destroy them.

Now that the highway mowers have been busy cutting everything down, it’s the end of spring wildflowers and the beginning of the long hot summer.

“Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart.”  Lady Bird Johnson

On the Wild Side

Out in the fields, it looks like color bombs have exploded scattering bright hues everywhere.

This field is between our house and barn.  Notice up front are three areas that have been mowed around.  Behind them is another perpendicular spot with red dots.

The three plots up front were planted with old fashioned irises about 12 years ago.  The first few years, I toiled to keep them weed free.  I even hired a guy to help me one year.  I noticed that he only pulled the top of the weeds off and did not get the roots.  So, eventually, I resorted to mowing around the rows.  When the irises are in bloom, they stick up above the weeds.

Here is a close up view of one clump of iris leaf blades. along with Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctorial) and wild native grasses.

Plains Coreopsis tends to grow in isolated small clumps, but can probably spread if the conditions are right.

The long plot behind the iris beds was seeded with native wildflowers three years ago.  The first year it produced most of the different seeds in the packets.  The next year, there were almost no wildflowers.

Because of the dry, hot summer last year and the wet fall and spring, this year there are masses of the hardy wildflowers.  Those are the ideal conditions for Texas wildflowers.

The Indian Blankets (Galillardia pulchella) are iconic all over Texas.

Their strong color really draws the eye.  Here, the one on the right has lost its petals and has dropped some of its seeds.

The white balls of Basket Flowers (Centaurea americana) have opened into beautiful white centers and lacy purple edges.

The first time I saw Basket Flowers was four years ago.  I fell in love with them immediately.  They are not common in many parts of Texas.

There are two main companies that sell Texas wildflower seeds – Wildflower Farm Seeds in Fredericksburg and Native American Seeds in Junction.  Both have online order services.

One of the flowers that I had hoped would reseed was Horsemint (Monarda citriodora), also call Purple Lemon Mint.  This year, I’ve enjoyed those stalked, ruffled layers of different shades of purple.

Every year we have these gorgeous flowers scattered across the field.  I haven’t be able to identify them.  They grow on a single stem all alone.  Anyone know what they are?

Another wildflower favorite is Mexican Hat or Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera).  Small groups of them rise above the grass level.

The tall top part of their “hat” is covered with brown seeds.  When the seeds drop, they’re left with a white top hat.

Growing low to the ground is this cluster of tiny white flowers with a pink tint.  Wish I knew their name.

Another mystery plant are these tiny stalks.  It looks like they had purple flowers.

In the yard, patches of Texas Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora) pop up most years.  It’s a creeping perennial that many consider a nuisance.  I’m sort of neutral about them.

This is a great time to get out and enjoy whatever flowers nature provides for you.

“Wildflowers – I envy them.  They’re brave.  Seeds cast by the wind to land where they may, they stay and hold against most hot, most cold.  They persevere, roots shallow, yet fierce and free.  They epitomize to me all that I sometimes yearn to be.”               Julie Andrews

Gardens in Victoria

This is the last post about the Master Gardener demonstration garden in Victoria near the coast in southeast Texas.

Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) blazes that bright orange color that screams hot climate.  Information indicates that it can grow in zones 8 and 9.

However, I have one in a pot that must be carried into a shed for the winter.  It takes it a long time to recover each summer.  So I think zone 8 is stretching it.

But what a fabulous flower color.

Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenvergia dumosa) is an interesting shrub with loose, draping branches.  It also requires a mild winter.

Crimson Pirate Daylily is one of my favorites.  Pretty spider shape, not too tall and brilliant color.

This garden is impressive in so many ways.  First, there are hundreds of different kinds of plants.  It is well organized and neat.  These gardeners also have so much creativity.

The queen butterfly is one of our most prominent butterflies.  This clever one is made from a section of heating vent.

There are also lots of structures that draw one into the garden.  The mesh building in the far right upper corner of this picture is an enclosed butterfly walk-in area.

Many Texans consider the welfare of Monarch Butterflies to be part of their responsibility since their migration path comes straight from Mexico through Texas.  Milkweed plants are vital for their survival because it’s the only plant where they lay their eggs and the only food source for their caterpillars. Milkweed mostly grows in uncultivated land areas.  But now, many homeowners grow it in their yards.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is one food source for Swallowtail butterflies.

This looks like it could be in the Scabosia family.  But I don’t know what it is and would love to find out.

Absolutely stunning.

There is an area that has small gardens donated by individuals or with specific themes.

While in Victoria, we also visited the city’s rose garden.  The layout is wonderful with paved pathways and excellent structures.  Since I’ve seen pictures of this online with mature bushes, I’m guessing that it was wiped out by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and has recently rebuilt.

A few large bushes survived.

Also read that the city accepted rose bush donations to plant.  My only complaint about this garden is that there were no ID tags to name the roses.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”  J.M. Barrie

Wonderful, Overwhelming Spring

As much as I love spring with the new life it brings, it is easy to become frustrated with all the attention the yard needs.  When you add that to other commitments, plus the unexpected ones that come up, some of the joy of it all is lost.

So, I’m trying to relax and not let the weeds or the busy schedule spoil this season.

Love Spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea).  It loves the cool mild days of spring but shags out when the heat hits.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus x virginalis) also likes prefers the milder weather.

The leaves maintain their light green color until the first freeze.

Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) is a Texas native that does really well with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Dianthus, also called pinks, is a more hardy soul.  The roots systems of some perennials can’t survive a cold winter in a pot.  But these guys greet us in early spring.  I like the look of them in pots.  The thickness of the plant also keeps weeds out.

Blackfoot Daisies( Melampodium leucanthum) with roses is a pleasing combination.

Wish I knew the name of this rose.  It was planted years ago when that sort of thing wasn’t important to me.

For a very short period of time, blossoms hang on Eve’s Necklace bush (Sophora affinis).  Soon, black pods of seeds will form like beads of a necklace.

Good old faithful Ice Plants glow in the sunlight.  The foliage looks a little ragged as the weather warms up.  I can’t even remember how long this has been in this pot in this spot.

Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis) pokes its head up briefly in the early spring.  This plant has been here for years and never seems to get much bigger.  But the root is solid.  I tried to dig it up one time – not happening.

Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) form tight clusters with lots of flowers.  Although it is considered a good plant for a marshy area, it has done very well in our drier area.  But, of course, we’ve had more rain than usual in the last year and a half.

This week the garden club had the dedication of the Blue Star Memorial to honor veterans.  The flower bed behind the plaque was built and planted by the club.  True to Texas weather, the wind whipped everything and everyone.  But it was a special event.

Hope you’re able to look past all the demands of your time and enjoy the moment.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Friends Return

Maybe it’s just me, but when perennials bloom each spring, it feels like old friends have dropped in for a visit.

Now I have to admit that these Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) have stayed around all winter, since it was especially mild.  But now they look brighter and perkier, ready to face the coming summer.

Each spring I’m still surprised that Amaryllis return.  In my mind, they belong in the inside potted plant category.  But I must give them credit showing up again the third time.  These were all gifts from my mother during her last two Christmases.

Such a beautiful, double flower with amazing bright color.

It seems I don’t notice some weeds until I see their pictures on the big screen of a computer.

This poor dwarf Indian Hawthorn is still struggling to recover from a really harsh winter before this last one.

But the flowers are sweet.

As always, I love my re-blooming Irises.

This Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) bloomed really early before cold days were over.  It’s hardiness is one of its best features, besides the lovely hanging flowers.

The Square Bud Primrose (Onagraceae Calylophus drummondianus)  isn’t as full as it used to be.  Maybe it’s still early.  It’s a Texas native, so I expect it to recover.

Dianthus is back with a flourish.  I like the red and pink on each petal.

Some visitors outstay their welcome.  The Texas Flowering Quince is just about to be pushed out the door because it needs to be pruned soon and tidied up.

Bluebonnets are always welcome.  Just planted this one, so I hope it makes it.  It’s leaning over Stonecrop Sedum.

The pinkish lavender against the beautiful deep purple makes a stunning show.

Welcome, old friends.  Stay awhile.

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”  unknown

Wildflowers and Memories

My last post showed gorgeous Texas wildflowers in a cemetery.  As Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

Past the thick patch of Indian Paintbrushes and some scattered White Prickly Poppies is the entrance into the Sutherland Springs cemetery.  That name may not conjure up any memories for you, but it is a sharp reminder of a tragedy that shattered this small community.

A lone gunman filled with hate and revenge stepped into this small church and took the lives of 26 innocent people.

Rather then walk into another church service in this building, the members turned it into a memorial for family and friends.  Instead, they rented a temporary building for services.  At the present time, a new stone building is nearing completion where they won’t be reminded of that day as they gather for worship.

Markers and mementos to honor the dead are placed all around the classic white chapel building with its idyllic steeple.  Some families were almost decimated that day.

This town is close to San Antonio, where the whole surrounding area has groves of these Huisache trees (Vachellia farnesiana).  They are considered nuisance trees by some people, like Mesquites in the upper Central Texas and, especially, West Texas.

Huisache is often one of the first trees to invade abandoned fields.  The most noticeable characteristics are their fragrant yellow puff blooms and their fern-like foliage.  They have white thorns, which are more noticeable on a young tree.  Huisaches require full sun and little water after they are established.Being in lower Central Texas, the area has mild winters with rare freezes, which is ideal for many wildflowers and some tropical plants.  It’s one of the more garden spots in the state.

As we focus on the natural beauty, we know that God is in control of the earth and the healing of this community.

“But I trust in your unfailing love;”  Psalm 13:5

No matter what the circumstances, we can trust the heart of God.

Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets

The wildflowers have arrived and are spectacular this year.  Decorating the highways, they add a sense of wonder to driving.

But one of the best places to enjoy wildflowers is a rural cemetery.  You don’t have to worry about getting run down when you step out of the car.  It’s also so peaceful and quiet.

Indian Paintbrushes (Castilleja) bloom a little earlier than Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) but they remain side by side for many days.  There are actually several different varieties of both Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets.

Wildflowers are not known for their scent, but a wonderful aroma surrounded us when we stepped out of the vehicle.  Wasn’t able to determine which ones provided the smell.

The older headstones were fascinating.

Think these are Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa).  Little clusters were scattered here and there.

The scenery around the cemetery was serene.

Pink was the dominant color here.

White Prickly Poppies form large colonies that are visible from a distance.

The wind was so strong, their delicate petals were brown in one direction.

In front of this handmade headstone is a weed I couldn’t identify.  All the weeds were lovely in this setting because none were prickly and seemed at home.

Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchiurn pruinosuem) makes me wonder how it got that common name.  The eye is yellow, so it’s doesn’t seem logical.

Found some headstones with my maiden name.  Have no idea if they were related to me.

Notice the fake flowers beside the marker.  That’s very common in Texas because most of the year, there are no native flowers or even foliage in the long hot summers.

I was curious what this growth on the stone is.  Some kind of fungus but this was the only stone I saw it on.

There are a number of low growing native white daisies or asters.  Don’t know which one this is.

A thick carpet is formed by this unknown native.  It’s definitely not a plant for your yard unless you intentionally want a covering of this instead of grass.  It spreads by runners and seems prolific.

 “Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Benjamin Franklin

Flash in the Pan

Warm weather has awakened some plants with flowers and tree bud openings.

This unknown woody plant pops up each year in a flowerbed.  I don’t know what it is nor how it got here.  I don’t remember planting it, but I certainly could have.

Each year I cut it back to the ground after blooming because it is too close to a more desirable bush.  The roots are entangled with other bushes, so that’s my solution.

In a field near the house, I noticed this in full bloom.  At first, it looked like Bee Bush, but close up, the flowers didn’t look right.

Rather than a bush, it appears to be a colony of one trunk small trees.

Pretty, but fleeting, the blooms only lasted for a few days.  The bees enjoyed a feast for those few days.

In the fields. tiny flowers are not noticeable unless one looks down.

This is probably Ten-petal Anemone (Anemone berlandieri).  Its name commemorates  Juis Berlandier from Belgium.  He traveled Texas in the mid 1800s and created one of the earliest and most extensive collections of native plants.

A few Rain Lilies from the last rain don’t draw attention to themselves.  They are sweet little surprises.

In the yard, clusters of buds appear on a Rusty Blackhaw Verburnum (Viburnum rufidulum).  It’s an East Texas plant that grows along rivers.  I defied reason and wanted to prove that it can be grown here.  It’s an under story tree or bush.

So, yes, it has lived for about six years here in the wrong soil and circumstances, but it hasn’t produced the blue berries in the fall.  By the end of our hot summer, it’s gasping and looking incredible sad.

This shot in the rising sunlight shows the individual cute little flowers, which won’t be around in a few days.

With these flash-in-a-pan flowers that have a limited lifespan, it reminds me to enjoy every moment as it comes.

“Life is dessert – too brief to hurry.”  Ann Voskamp

Winter Color

Winter has been mild so far here, which is fine with me.  So there are some tiny bits of color scattered around the yard.

First, I must apologize for the quality of some of the pictures – not totally in focus.

Dianthus have survived a couple of freezes really well.

This Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) has had some blooms that don’t stay open for more than a day.  It’s a native with dusty green curly leaves and is a good performer in both the summer heat and a mild winter.

Texas Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) usually has some flowers in January or February.One lone Daffodil has opened up.

Several years ago I bought this at a garden club sale and was told that it was an evergreen fern.  Turns out, it is a native Yarrow with white flowers.  But it is evergreen.

Pittsporoum in a pot provides some green, but the tips of the leaf edges are a little crisp from an earlier freeze.

Another native Yarrow has completely different leaves.  I think this is Moon Dust Yarrow (Achillea ‘Novaachdus’).  It is somewhat evergreen with dusty green leaves and does not reseed.

This hardy Ice Plant is amazing.  It’s been in the same pot on the back porch for years.  In cold weather, the foliage looks a little ragged, but it keeps on blooming even in freezing weather.  The pot is in a corner spot which protect it from harsh winds.

Yes.  I do know that this is a weed.  But the Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) will be easy to pull out of this pot when I want to get rid of it.

I think it’s pretty, and it is color.  Can’t be too choosy in the winter.

Spectacular sunrises start the day with cheery color.

On a cloud covered morning came brilliant red on the horizon.

While we’re enjoying a mild winter, I realize that further north, a polar vortex has struck with devastating temperatures.  I pray for safety for everyone experiencing this.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”   Edith Sitwell

More Ice Pix

Everything looks picture worthy as I tramp around the ice covered yard.

Ice gives Yaupon Holly a sparkle.

Brr.  No one wants to live here in this cold.

Snapping off of the frozen branches from the Texas Kidneywood bush would be easy.

Possum Haw berries in a globe of ice.  Possumhaw Holly is a great small native tree with multiple trunks.

Icy Red Yucca branches under an overcast sky makes me shiver.

The two preceding pictures show Blue Mistflowers.

At the tip of tall trunks of Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), heavy ice keeps the branches from swaying in the wind.

Ice covered rose bushes have an ethereal look.

Spaghetti strands of Dried Mexican Feather Grass flops on the ground.

Dwarf Indian Hawthorn is one of the few evergreen bushes in our yard.  The frosty ice coating is gorgeous.

Tall, thin stems of Obedient Plant form upside down icicles.

Bright red Rose Hip with copper colored Rose leaves provides color in a drab wintry scene.

I enjoy some winter when the harsh weather only comes a few days at a time.  But basically, I’m a warm weather person.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”  Percy Bysshe Shelley