Ain’t Autumn Grand

Cool temps in autumn don’t bring the orange and yellow of fall foliage here, but they do bring the bright colors of flowers.  Roses rebloom, other flowers increase in number, and some newcomers shine this time of the year.

Intricate flowers of the Purple Passion Vine or Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) deserve a close inspection to see their uniqueness and beauty.  Zebra Longwing caterpillars and Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Notice the other little flower intruding in this space.  It’s the native Morning Glory vine, which pops up everywhere and covers any surface where it’s tendrils can cling.  This vine is an aggravating, aggressive irritant in the yard.  Okay, it’s quaint growing on barbed wire out in the field, but mostly it grows in cultivated areas.

Cooler weather brings flowers galore on Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus-arboreus-var-drummondii).  What a wonderful Texas native perennial with its bright red unusual flowers and hardy in clay, rocky soil.  Glorious.

After other sunflowers have shriveled up, Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) wave their bright yellow faces in the air.  I don’t know if this actually grows in swampy areas, but it’s very drought tolerant here in our clay soil.

Jackmanii Clematis (Clematis x jackmani) is named after an English nurseryman who introduced this cultivar in 1862.  Great performer here in dry upper Central Texas.

Last year a small bush with spiky stems appeared in this bed.  I thought it was interesting and decided to leave it.  Boy, am I glad I did.

That little bush grew up into this Gayfeather.  This is not the type of Gayfeather seen in the fields in this area.  The local Gayfeather is one stem standing in a group of other single stems.  So I’m not sure of its variety or how it got here.

Bees are enjoying it.

A migrating Monarch stopped by for a snack.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this blog.  Hope you’re having a wonderful fall.

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building.”   Bono

Goldthwaite, Texas Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens and Native American Interpretive Center in Goldthwaite, Texas, is not the type of garden most people conjure up when they think of a botanical garden.  It is a representation of the nature prairie that existed in the area at the time of the early native Comanches.

The gardens were the brain child of a non-Texan who moved to the area.  It was years in the planning and fund raising stages.

Goldthwaite GardenLast fall was their grand opening with Laura Bush as their main speaker.  The Center has affiliations with both the Smithsonian Museum and a group of Comanches in Oklahoma.  Some of them attended the grand opening and performed dances.

Goldthwaite Garden7This Visitor Center for the area was constructed by the Texas Highway Department.  Additional funds were raised by a couple of other groups.  The Highway Department architect worked with the Garden committee to design the building.

One big feature is the v shaped roof.  Rainwater collects in the center and drains down the chain into an underground concrete cistern.  Any watering of the gardens is from that cistern.

The gardens are entered through the building.  The most impressive part of the garden to me was the advance planning.  It was definitely done right.

Goldthwaite Garden1Scattered throughout the gardens are informative signs about the Comanches.

Goldthwaite GardenmOnly native plants from the area were used.  This is Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis Rivina humilis L.), which has scarlet fruit that birds love.

Goldthwaite Garden2Goldthwaite Garden8Designed to look like an ancient cooking berm, these rocks represent the rocks that wood fires were built on.  When the rocks cracked from the heat, additional rocks were placed on top creating a raised area.  Lots of shells are just below the ground in Mills County.  The natives used those as tools while cooking.

Goldthwaite GardencaThey also constructed ovens from rocks.

Goldthwaite GardenbWild gourds and squashes that were inedible raw, were cooked and eaten.  This shows what was in the center of the oven.

Goldthwaite GardennNative grains were ground with stones on flat rocks.

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Goldthwaite GardenfOne of the disappointments in the gardens were the plant identification signs.  They have faded and are barely legible.  That probably surprised whoever choose them.

The architect and person who orchestrated the gardens was our guide.  But I don’t remember the name he gave for this plant.  Maybe Wooly Paperflower?

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Goldthwaite GardenhThe wickiup design and construction show how the Indians were able to use the land but not leave a footprint.

Goldthwaite GardendThey were basically just shelter from the sun and rain.

Goldthwaite GardeneBuffalo Grass 609 is a low water usage ground cover.  Its blades are soft, flop over, and don’t necessarily need to be mowed.  This grass was only watered one time this summer.

Goldthwaite GardencA quick sun shelter.

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Goldthwaite Garden9Plains Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthus) doesn’t need much water and in fact, will die with too much.  They grow well in rocky or in sandy soils.

Goldthwaite GardenaWater from the cistern flows into a small stream that wanders through the gardens.  The site is actually small – a little larger than one fourth of a block.  The excellent designed meandering trails circle through the gardens, making it feel larger.

Goldthwaite GardengNarrow-leafed Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata) blooms during the hot summer and into the fall.  It was used to treat sore throat and rattlesnake bites.

Goldthwaite GardenlTrees are strategically placed so that when they mature, they will block out the surrounding buildings and perhaps muffle the traffic noises.

Goldthwaite GardeniPokeberry (Phytolacca americana L.) has poisonous berries and roots, but the pink stems were eaten as greens.  However, the berries were not poisonous to birds.  The berry juice was used as a dye.

Goldthwaite GardenjCan’t remember the name of this plant, but I like it.

Goldthwaite Gardenp

Goldthwaite GardenkDraping across the rock is Texas Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora).  It can form thick mats in the yard and the long strands are easy to trip on.

The yellow flowers look like some kind of poppy or primrose.

Goldthwaite GardenoThe massive amounts of rocks brought into the site from the countryside are staggering.  All of work was done by the guy who gave us the tour and his four workers.  Wow.

Future plans include a three story museum building.  Already enough artifacts have been donated to just about fill it up.  Funds are being raised and grants sought.  All this has been accomplished by a small town with less than 2,000 citizens and a county of just about 5,000 people.  It truly is a grass roots project.

I guess the message is to dream big.

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
Shannon L. Alder

Last Look at OK City

The Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City were not what I expected.  It is actually a park for families with flower beds in a lower area.  It covers four city blocks that form a square, but doesn’t seem that big.  Maybe we missed something.

okarboretum3What looks like a blurry picture is actually the result of water mist coming from the Thunder Fountain.  It functions like a sprinkler for children to run through, but of course, has a much more powerful spray coming from above.  Several kids were laughing and playing under it.

okarboretum4The playground is on an upper area with seating.  Stairs lead down to a lower level with a walking loop around a pond.  This is where most of the flowers are.  In the above photo is some kind of Salvia.

okarboretum5This was labeled Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Tiger Eye Gold’), a native to North America.

okarboretum6The gardens had several symmetrical designs, which made it seem rather formal.

okarboretum7There were lots of Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) under the trees and in other shady areas.  In the background is the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory that looks like a huge glass tube.

Because we chose to visit the gardens in the late afternoon for a cooler walk, the conservatory was closed.  Also, I had hoped to avoid the harsh sunlight in photos.  Ha.  That didn’t happen.

okarboretum8More Oakleaf Hydrangeas line the stairway.

okarboretum9Not sure what these are, but they might be pentas.  I was disappointed that there were no signs for many things.

okarboretumaThese look like Hostas to me.  There were lots of new plantings of perennials.  Being further north, maybe the freezes killed what was planted in these beds.

okarboretumbThat low sun swept across everything that wasn’t in the shade.

okarboretumcPrairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya) blooms at the top of the tall stalk with pinkish purple clusters.  Also known by the name Gay Feather, it is a striking sight on prairies and in fields.

okarboretumdThese Coneflowers (Echinacea pallida ‘Hula Dancer’) made me smile.  They definitely sway like dancing girls in straw skirts.

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okarboretumfYarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a great garden plant because it has such a unique look.  Mine got taken over by the agressive Gregg’s Bluemist.  But butterflies swarm to the Bluemist, so I can live with losing the Yarrow in that spot.  Maybe I’ll try it somewhere else.

okarboretumgThis looks like a Zinna hybrid.

okarboretumhThis tree root system sculpture was displayed with a warning about touching it.  Guess they didn’t want climbers.  Interesting play of light and shadows.

okarboretumjThe sun made the pink of these Petunias almost psychedelic.

okarboretumkThis small waterfall empties into a stream that flows into the pond.

okarboretumlYellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’) is a North American native.  Now I know where the inspiration for the plastic clusters of white berries came from.  These are sold in the artificial flowers section of several craft stores.

okarboretummMore Salvia.

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okarboretummojpgHorsetail (Equisetum hyemale) is also from North America.  I really like the look, and how it is used in a narrow bed along a wall.

okarboretummpjpgThis pot contained a variety of plants including an Oleander, Coleus, Plumbago, purple Potato Vine and Verbena.

I enjoy strolling through almost any garden, but this one was not on my favorites list.  To be fair, we did not see inside the conservatory.

“Note to self:  just because it pops into my head does not mean it should come out of my mouth.” t-shirt humor or wisdom?

Other Color in Fields

Most of the wildflowers in Texas are small and not even noticeable from the road.  Walking through the fields, it takes an eagle eye to spot tiny little blossoms.

This wild aster looks like a blur of white.

Although I’m not a botanist, I think this is a Texas Aster (Symphyotrichum drummondii).  Up close, it has the yellow center and some faint pink or lavender on the petals.  They bloom September – November.

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between a wild aster and a tiny wild daisy, but I think these are Spiny Aster (Chloracantha spinosa).  It is also known as Mexican Devil-weed.  They grow in bigger masses than the Texas Asters and are therefore easier to see.

They have a more defined petal and the centers are not as feathery.  Also, they grow on taller, straighter, thicker stems.

Both the Texas Aster and the Spiny Aster grow among weeds and tall grasses in the bar ditches and other poor soils. Gayfeather (Liatris elegans), also called Blazing Star, are blooming now.  They grow on barren land in a single stalk up to 3 feet tall.  When there are several together, they make a stunning sight.

They have a long taproot, which makes it difficult to dig them up.  I’ve tried.  So gathering seeds is the best choice in order to grow them in the yard.

Another stunner in the field or along caliche roads is Poverty Willow.  It’s also know as Roosevelt Weed or New Deal Weed.  It is one of the first plants to invade abandoned fields, roadsides and disturbed habitats and is extremely drought tolerant.   The Roosevelt name comes from the belief that it was planted during the Dust Bowl to hold down soil.  But it is another one of those invasive plants that sucks the water out of the ground without providing any benefit to animals.

It looks like cotton puffs and has a silky feel.

One flower at this time of year is definitely visible as you drive the highways in central Texas.  It actually is very distracting to me.  I can’t take my eyes off them.  The Maximilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) are a gorgeous sight.

The flowers are smaller than the common sunflower, but grow stacked on a stem.  The flowers are 4 inches across.  Because their flowers are close together, this provides a mass of color. They grow from tubers, which reportedly were a food source for the native western Indians.  They were named for Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Prussia who traveled in the 1830’s throughout the western part of the US.

Cattle eat them, so about the only place they grow are along the roadsides beyond the reach of cattle.  Deer also eat them, so I’m surprised there are any left to decorate the areas along the roadways.

Texas has lots of different kinds of wildflowers.  Some are so tiny they are barely visible, while others are massive.  Some are so invasive they threaten the existence of beneficial plants.  Others just add a spark of color in an area of dying grasses.  I appreciate the beauty in them all.

“Every great wave of popular passion that rolls up on the prairies is dashed to spray when it strikes the hard rocks of Manhattan.”  Henry Louis Mencken