Indian Summer

After the threat of a freeze two weeks ago, we lugged in most of the potted plants and covered others with sheets.  It was in the mid thirties for two days.  Then back up to the middle 90’s since then.  With some record highs, it’s a crazy Texas autumn.

Although some gardeners don’t consider it worthwhile to take Coleus in for the winter, I do.  Sure, I could buy new ones in the spring, but then I wouldn’t have this one that came from a friend’s mother.

In the warm shed, Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) bloomed again.  That’s the pretty pink ones at the top.  The other pink ones are Crown of Thorns.  Note the sharp thorns that define them.

Another pot of Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) that was gingerly carried inside.  Those thorns reach out and grab your skin.

Most of the plants, like this White Plumbago (Plumbago Auriculata Escapade White), were looking spiffy.  Re-flowering occurred after the summer heat had ended and some pleasant days of 70s were a boon to us all.

Ditto for the Purple Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) or Sky Flower.

It’s a shame these flowers are all in the shed where I can’t enjoy their last hurrah.  But the rule in our household is that once the plants are carried inside, that’s where they will stay until spring.

Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) was looking good.  If we lived just a couple of zones south of here, the evergreen foliage would survive the winter and be good to go next year.

Can’t get much cheerier than this color.

Same with American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).  It might be okay here, but I don’t want to take a chance.  We just might have a hard freeze sometime this winter.

I really hated to hide this beauty away.  The cooler temperatures had brought back all its glory.  Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) is one showy plant.

Some bulbs, like this Stella de Oro Daylily have been reblooming.

Dianthus or Pinks (Dianthus ssp.) should die down during the winter, but return in the spring.

In the fields, good ole Prairie Verbena or Sweet William (Verbena bipinnatifia)  blooms and blooms.

There’s always the roses to enjoy.  This flower on Belinda’s Dream (Rosa hybrida Belinda’s Dream) reminds of the kid Arnold Horshack in “Welcome Back Kotter” with his hand waving in the air, demanding attention.

Belinda’s Dream definitely deserves attention.  It was the first rose chosen as an Earthkind Rose and is still a hardy, disease resistant, consistent performer.  Love it.

The bright fire engine red of Show Biz Rose (Rosa Tanweieke)  keeps on blooming.  it is a floribunda rose that was hybridized by Tantau and introduced in 1985.  To me, it’s a reminder of our visit to the Biltmore where we bought it at their nursery.

The plants in my yard are friends that bring memories of certain people or places.  Thanks for taking time to read my blog.

“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take you breath away.”  anonymousSave

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Fort Phantom Hill

The occupation of Fort Phantom, north of Abilene, only lasted two years and five months.  Yet, on some days, it must have felt like a lifetime.

Soldiers traveled from forts in Arkansas and from the Indian Territory to erect this new fort.  The purpose of the fort was to protect travelers and settlers from Comanche raiding parties.

The grand, ghostly chimneys don’t begin to convey the hardships endured during these short years.  Yet, the feeling of isolation is still present even though a state highway divides the fort.

While living in tents, the soldiers constructed wooden houses for the officers using limited building supplies.  The enlisted men lived in pole huts with dirt floors and grass thatched roofs.

The Guard House or Jail was used to house soldiers for fighting or drinking whiskey, called bug juice.

Unusual for Texas, some houses had a cellar.

The ubiquitous Prickly Pear Cactus was as thorny a problem for them as for present day land owners.

Rattlesnakes are a fact of life in Texas. As the soldiers traveled to this location, a Texas Blue Norther struck.  Temperatures dropped quickly and the wind blew fiercely.  One teamster, twenty-seven oxen and mules froze to death in the sudden cold.

In the beginning, there were few problems from the Comanches.  But by 1853, travelers were attacked, some killed and scalped and others kidnapped.  After Indian Agent Jesse Stern was slain, the mood changed.  A new commander did not change the situation and the fort was abandoned.  As they left, he ordered that the fort be burned.

The water near the fort was full of minerals and tasted bad.  A deep well was dug but often ran dry, so water had to be hauled from a small spring four miles away.

Mesquite trees provided the only shade.

Hardships included scorching hot summers, freezing winters with ice and snow, and the ever present wind.  And, then, there were snakes, spiders, insects, ants, and other vermin.  There was rarely enough food and illnesses resulted.

What is it?

This stone bottom level of a two story commissary remains.

The monotonous view contained these three elements:  cacti, prairie grasses, and mesquites.

Across the present day highway, the Magazine still stands.  It was designed with a tall ceiling and vents to keep the gunpowder and shot dry.  The fort had muskets, rifles, and two brass cannons for protection.

Anyone want to go back to the good old days?  Not me.

“I cannot imagine that God ever intended white man to occupy such a barren waste land.”  Lt. Clinton W. Lear, Nov. 19, 1851

“Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn.”  Berta Hart Nance

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Storybook Sculptures

Abilene, Texas, calls itself Storybook Capital of the World.  Scattered around the downtown area are sculptures of characters from children’s books as well as various other sculptures.

I’m starting with my least favorite:  Dino Bob from the book Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.

Never heard of this book.

The Man in the Moon is represented by a moon up on a tall pole.

Also, unknown to me.  Don’t give up.  It gets better.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stands outside the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature building.

Everman Park, beside the renovated train depot, contains the Dr. Seuss Sculptures.  A nice job of landscaping this area uses hardy Texas plants, like the New Gold Lantana in the picture.  This lantana is a hybrid and makes a 6 to 8 foot ground cover.

Although this isn’t Dr. Seuss, it’s at the park entrance.  Santa Calls sculpture depicts three children who travel to the North Pole.  Santa sent a flying machine called Yuletide Flyer.The beloved Cat in the Hat turns a rainy day into unexpected fun for children.

Some  small Magnolia trees had blossoms.  It’s unusual to see Magnolias in Central Texas, but this is probably a Little Gem Magnolia, which is a late bloomer, smaller than most Magnolias, and survives in zones 5 – 9.

The Lorax speaks for the trees and warns of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.

Yurtle the Turtle, who claims to be the king of the pond, climbs on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon.  A good message to us all not to feel more important than others.

In spite of derogatory remarks in the news recently about Dr. Seuss, I think he had an important role.  He got many kids interested in reading and learning and did it in an extremely fun way.

The Grinch tries to sabotage Christmas in Whoville.

Another small Magnolia surrounded by Knockout Roses, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and a Boxwood hedge.  The roses may be Drift Roses, which are a type of Knockouts.

Russian Sage is a good choice for arid areas.  It has a lovely scent and is hardy.  It does spread, so these will become overcrowded at some point.

Sam, I am, encourages everyone to try Green Eggs and Ham.

In the second book to feature Horton, Horton Hears a Who, he once again becomes the protector of a helpless creature.  A small piece of dust that talks to Horton asks for help.  Even though he is ridiculed and harassed by the other animals, Horton states that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. SeussSave

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Flit, Flutter, Flap

Faster than the speed of light:  at least, that’s what it seems like when you’re trying to photograph flying creatures.

Although I’m definitely not knowledgeable about identifying butterflies, this is a type of Giant Swallowtail feeding on Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).

Flame Acanthus grows in poor rocky soil and in direct hot sun, so it’s great for our location.  It’s a perennial that does better if it is severely cut back in the early spring.  It starts to leaf out late in the spring, but from then until the first frost, it is covered with small tubular red flowers.

Here’s a Swallowtail on Obedient Plants (Physostegia virginiana).  Obedient Plants, native to North America, freely reseed, so they spread easily.

Another Black Swallowtail on Acanthus.

Queen Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) camp out on Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) all summer long.

They swarm the tiny powder puff flowers flitting from flower to flower.  If you want butterflies in your yard, Bluemist and Flame Acanthus will do the trick.

Some Dusty Miller is hanging over the Bluemist, but their meal is found in the Bluemist.

Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis) is common to the southwestern US.  Thanks, moth, for being perfectly still so I could get a picture.

A  Monarch (Danaus plexippus) stops on her journey to Mexico to enjoy the Bluemist Flowers.  Also known as the Milkweed Butterfly because that’s the only food source for their caterpillars.

Thankfully, the Monarch Butterflies aren’t as picky as their caterpillars.  This one enjoys Purple Asters.  Actually, it looks like two are feeding on the same flower.

This beauty – Pipevine Swallowtail or Blue Swallowtail (Battus philenor) adds color to the garden.

Detail is seen in this bright orange Dragonfly resting on a fence.

Giant Sulfurs or Cloudless Giant Sulfurs (Phoebis sennae) must love red flowers.  They have been a constant presence in our yard for a month.  This one is feasting on Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), the last one left from summer.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) attracts of Sulfurs.

Sulfurs are also fans of Flame Acanthus.

Other butterflies like this small one that I can’t identify are flitting here and there.

“Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  St. AugustineSave

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Fabulous Fall

A little rain and cooler weather does wonders for us all.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) is a zone 9a – 11 plant; therefore it’s a pot plant for me.  Even though it loves heat, it does much better here in a shady area.  Our blazing hot sun burns tender leaves.

Everything I’ve read indicates that it is a pollinator magnet, but I’ve never seen one on or near it.  It’s a conundrum.

Scented Geraniums also like the heat but wilt in direct sunlight.  This one is so pretty with an impressionist painting look.

Don’t have a clue what this plant is.  It’s in a pot, so I must have planted it.  Or maybe it’s one I brought from Mother’s house.

It has been outside all summer and only got berries on it a few weeks ago.  Those berries turned into these pretty clusters of miniature flowers.  Anyone know?  Please comment if you know.

After some harsh cold spells last winter, this large shrub was dead as a doornail.  Then, two little stems came up.  We cut the large branches and main trunk off.  The stump is in the lower right corner.

One of my all time favorite flowering bushes, Texas Flowering Senna (Senna corynbosa) is hopefully going to survive.  These are difficult to find since most nurseries don’t carry them.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), is also known as French Mulberry, American Mulberry, Spanish Mulberry, Bermuda Mulberry, Sour, and Sow-berry.  I much prefer Beautyberry because the vibrant neon color of the berries is astounding.

Of course, they don’t survive our winters but do well in a protected shed.

Autumn means pretty colorful leaves.  This red one was found in a dry creek bed.  I’m not sure what tree it’s from.

Just got this birdhouse and signs up recently.  My husband painted the signs, while I painted and decorated the birdhouse.  The pole stands at the edge of a bed of native orange Cannas.

The days are comfortably warm, but the sun is still bright.  Wonderful autumn days pull me outside to enjoy the relief from summer heat.

The flowers of this African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) bounce playfully when there is a breeze.

Not sure what kind of Purple Asters these are.  In the spring, I divided them and spread them out more.

Just love the bright cheeriness of them.

Ixora (Ixora coccinea) blooms from the time we bring it outside each spring and even retains some blossoms in the shed through the winter in the shed.  But near the end of summer, most flowers drop off.  Then magically, it blooms again.

A tropical shrub native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, it is also the national flower of Suriname.

Such a lovely color.

Hope you are enjoying autumn weather where you are.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L. M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables 

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Spring Fed River

While in San Angelo recently, we enjoyed strolling through a small park area bordering the Concho River.  The key to success in public park spaces is meeting the needs of local people and knowing what grows well in your area.

The sight of this spring fed river in dry West Texas always makes me feel good.

Although this area is beside a major road, it is quiet and peaceful.  The deep shade of what I think is Arizona Cypress (Cupressus Arizonica) is a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

A  soothing spot to while away an morning or afternoon.

Continuing our walk, we cross the river on the foot bridge.

The Concho River in West Texas seems like a strange place for a mermaid statue, but is actually appropriate since she is holding a Concho freshwater mussel that produces gorgeous pearls in many colors.  The pink one is probably the most well known, even from the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

The sculptor, Jayne Charless Beck, was a San Angelo resident artist who passed away in 1993.  After his death, this bronze casting of “The Pearl of the Concho” was donated to the city.

This memorial for 9/11 victims displays 2,996 flags for the victims.

A metal cross stands in the center of the memorial.

Several plantings of Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate) provide a coolness to the area.  It is native to South Africa and survives in zones 8 – 11.

This combo with Texas Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) contrasts the brightness of the yellow and the calming effect of the blue.

The draping of the Blue Plumbago’s long branches is an additional plus.

In the right zone, Plumbago is easy to grow.  Unfortunately, for me it is an annual and has to be grown in a pot.

Yellow Bells also require mild winters, but the problem can be solved with heavy mulching and some kind of cover over the roots.

Grass plantings are very popular.  This is Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) with an Autumn Salvia Greggii (Salvia greggii) in front.

Some consider Mexican Feather Grass to be invasive.  It has not been for me, but the top half of the plant should be cut off in winter to keep it from flopping and looking messy.

Salvia greggii should also be cut back severely in winter.  Otherwise, it becomes too leggy.  The species has several different flower colors.

I think this is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetumsetaceum ‘Rubrum’), which is hardy in zones 9 – 11.  It’s used as an annual in larger Texas cities.

Mugwort or Artemisia  (Artemisia vulgaris) placed in the middle of Mexican Feather Grass adds a lovely softness.

Salvia Greggii can be overused because of its hardiness, but this park has just a few scattered here and there.

One of my favorite ornamental trees or large bushes is Chaste Tree, Abraham’s balm,  Monk’s pepper or Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).  They are just so reliable for our dry areas, plus they have gorgeous purple flower clusters.  After the flowers die, the cluster of berries can be dried and used in arrangements.

Before turning around, we stopped outside of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts that we had previously visited a few weeks before this trip.

Potato Vine with Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and maybe a Bougainvillea that isn’t blooming.

Nothing is as refreshing as a walk through nature, even if it’s in the city or maybe, because it’s in the city.

“We always want the best man to win an election.  Unfortunately, he never  runs.”                   Will Rogers Save

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Everyday Gifts

Without sounding too pollyanna, I want to focus on the gifts we receive everyday that we often take for granted.  Mostly, we think of blessings like good health, a job we love, and a loving family as worthy of praise.  Stories of unexpected large sums of money given to people in need or stories of people who risk their lives to save others deservedly make the news.

But this post is about more subtle thoughtfulness such as when another car allows you to pull out in front of them or when a stranger smiles even when they’re busy or tired.  These gifts can easily be passed along to someone else.

Or we can just enjoy a rainy day if we live in an arid area or a sunny day if your home is in a frequent rain area.

In San Angelo a few weeks ago, I noticed pots and planters filled with plants in front of an antique mall.  There were lots of potato vines.  This one also has a Passion flower and maybe a small Turk’s Cap.

With extreme darkness and bright light beside each other, the setting is not ideal for photos.

What I appreciated was all the work involved in providing an attractive entry way and all along the side of the building.  I know it requires lots of time to keep pots watered in the extreme heat of West Texas.  Creating a pretty space for others to enjoy is a definitely a gift.

Also, I appreciated the artful placement of accessories among the plants.  Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) come in shades of chartreuse or purple.  Either color in a large grouping makes a big impact.

A Mother-of-Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) plant sits on the left of the bench.  It is so named because along the edge of each leaf is a row of plantlets that will drop and take root.  It is also known as Devil’s backbone, Alligator Plant or Mexican Hat Plant.  A succulent native to Madagascar, be wary of planting it where you don’t want it to spread.

To the right of that is African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens Orange), a heat loving plant.

A Knock Out Rose, more Potato Vine and maybe some Desert Rose.

This Austin stone planter filled with aloes has a nice crisp look.

Old tub filled with Potato Vine and White Guara or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri).

There must have been a sale on Potato Vine and Knock Out Roses.

Old wagons always make great containers for plants.

San Angelo is proud of the paintings on buildings that depict different parts of their heritage.

Not sure what this trash can is made of, but it’s definitely not a real anvil.

Items in front of an antique or ‘just used’ shop.

The store name is “Tossed and Found”.

Everytime I ooh and ahh over scenes like this, my husband says that I just like old, rusty junk.  That’s true.  Especially if a plant is plopped in or sitting on top of it.

A pot in front of a telephone pole creates a place for this Purple Passion Vine (Passiflora incarnata) to climb.  Two other common names seem really strange to me:  Maypop and Apricot Vine.

Gratitude for the small joys of life makes us happier and kinder.  My opinion.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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