Cool Misty Morn

The last two days have been rainy and blessed us with a little over an inch and a half, so far.  It’s still misty with a heavy cloud cover.

This flowerbed in front is filled with all sorts of plants.  In bloom right now are purple Brazos or Gulf Coast Penstemon, Blue Irises, and Four Nerve Daisies.  Both the Penstemon and Daisies are Texas natives.  The Penstemon can crowd out other plants, so I’ve been digging some up to share.

The small tree to the right is a Lacy Oak.  The light green tree/bush on the left is a Golden Lead Ball Tree.  In the background is a Live Oak just starting to leaf out.

To the left of that bed is a Eve’s Necklace in front and a Chinese Pistache behind it.

Dianthus is one brave little flower.  They survived the cold in pots!

The bright red Dianthus, also in a pot, were in a more protected area.

Looking another direction, there are Yellow Columbines (Aquilegia flavescens) close to the house, Smoke bushes (Cotinus coggygria), a Texas Ash behind them and in the far bed, dead looking Crepe Myrtles.

The Columbines are native, as is the Ash.  Another, larger Texas Ash in the back of the house is toast.  It was shading the pergola, so it’s a sad loss.

The verdict on Crepe Myrtles from the devastating ice storm is still out.  Some of ours are sprouting leaves or have new stems at the bottom of the tree.  Others are still bare and don’t look promising.

The pink Roses are Carefree Beauties, also known as Katy Road.  The bare space between the rose bush and the daisies is where we took out an old rose bush.  But it’s sprouting from the roots.

Across the road are three Afghan Pines.  The extreme cold did a number on them.  We’ll see if they survive.

Ox-Eye Daisies are hardy and spread quickly.  They’re another good pass-along plant.

In the past few years, I’ve come to really appreciate Coleus.  I generally prefer a flowering plant, but the colors of the foliage available are beautiful.  Of course, they’re aren’t cold hardy, but mine survive in the green house.

Hope you’re enjoying listening to the rain fall or just soaking up the sunshine outside.  Whatever the weather, it’s time to smile for yourself and for others.

“Sometimes I just look up and say, ‘I know that was you.’  Thank you.”

Springtime? One Day, Yes and the Next Day, No

Just when spring seems to have sprung, winter ricochets back to zap us again.  Fortunately, some plants can withstand a short spell in the 30’s.

Texas Mahonia (Mahonia swayeyi) was purchased at Medina Natives Nursery four years ago.

These tiny flowers will become berries.  Being a Texas native, it’s very hardy.  It has many similarities with Agarita in our fields.  But it’s not nearly as thorny.

This crazy-looking Allium makes me smile.

Ditch Daylilies are poised to bloom.  Some Yellow Columbine migrated to this spot.

The Ixora in this pot had to be replaced.  I’d like to blame the extreme cold in February, but it didn’t do well last year.  Even though it’s topical and is native to the Philippines and surrounding areas, it survived for 15 years in this pot.  The unusual color of the flowers is almost indescribable.

The stars of the show this time of the year are the Irises.  True blue flowers are rare, so this is special.

The word Iris comes from the Greek goddess of rainbows.  The many different colors of Irises explains that.  Sketched pictures of irises have been found on Egyptian walls in pyramids and other grave sites.

Takes my breath away.

Three years ago I bought a few Penstemons.  The purple ones have spread to fill up this flower bed.  This is the sole remaining pink one.

Eve’s Necklace is a small ornamental tree with bright green leaves and strands of sweet smelling flowers in early spring.

Those strands of flowers will become strands of black seeds encased in  black pods.  It’s a great small tree.  Before I bought this one, a friend said that everyone should have an Eve’s Necklace.  Planted the thought in my brain.

“Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.”  Charles Dickens

It’s Bluebonnet Time

In 1997 Ennis was designated by the State Legislature as the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.  So we took a day to see if the title was deserved.

Maps for the 40 miles of Bluebonnet Trails are available at the Visitor’s Center.  Most trails are on narrow, winding country roads with no place to pull over.

So first, we headed to an open field where it was permissible to walk around and take pictures of each other among the Bluebonnets.  Should have picked up some children because their pictures are much cuter.

The field was in a beautiful area with trees on three sides and Bardwell Lake on one side.

A few Indian Paintbrushes were scattered across the field.

Bluebonnet leaves can be clearly seen in the bottom middle of this picture.

Since this area, 35 miles south of Dallas, receives more rain that the Hill Country in Central Texas, the flowers were larger and taller than what we usually see.

Most of the fields are on private property and must be viewed from the road.

To me, old dilapidated buildings are charming in pictures.

There were many areas of large swarths of Bluebonnets.

The white tops of the Bluebonnets makes them appear paler off in the distance.

What a beautiful scene.

An idyllic property made us linger here.  Love the Texas flag.

Would love to sit a spell on that bench.

An overcast sky and pleasant temperatures made this a wonderful outing.

Although the Bluebonnet season is short, Bluebonnets hold a special place in our hearts and not just because they are the state flower.  It is sentimental, like the Legend of the Bluebonnet.

“It’s a fact that anywhere in Texas you can yell ‘The stars at night are big and bright’ and random strangers will finish your sentence.”  unknown

Fabulous Flowers

Two months ago the temperatures were below zero, but today it will be in the high nineties.  Isn’t nature full of surprises?

There are still some questions about what will recover from that extreme cold.  However, flowers are appearing every day.

One of the showiest bushes in my yard is Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia).

Every year more and more clusters of flowers appear.

It may be a short-lived glory, much like a wedding day.  However, memories live on.

Plant in full sun and enjoy its beauty.

Native False Foxglove or Wild Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea) is stunning this year.  It is not related to the European Foxglove, but is in the penstemon family.

Native Columbine’s flowers are exotic.

Sorry that I haven’t quite mastered that magical photography hour just after sunrise.

Columbine or Aquilegia is evergreen and remained green under the snow coverage.  It prefers morning sun and afternoon shade.

Someone has compared the flowers to jester’s hats.  Not sure I see it.

Another native that survived the cold very well is Gulf Coast Penstemon or Brazos Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis).  Plant this where you don’t mind that it spreads.  It’s easy to dig up but will cover an area quickly.  Full sun and as for most plants, well draining soil.

Bulbs are one of my favorite types of plants.  Daffodils are still blooming.  Different types of daffodils or narcissus (not sure which one this is) bloom at different times.

Bulbs are unique in that they produce their own energy and food.  The bulb is like a battery.  Its recharger is the foliage.  Therefore, the foliage needs to be left until it fully dies.  It may look tattered for a while.  The dead parts in this picture could be trimmed off.

One of the bonuses of bulbs is that they multiply and need to be divided every few years for the best flowers.  Voila: new free plants.  Irises is one of the hardiest bulbs around.

Spanish Bluebells is another hardy bulb.  Their flowers don’t last a long time.  The foliage is attractive on its own.

Hope your spring is filled with beauty.

“Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life.”   Toni Sorenson

The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

It’s been about six weeks since our extraordinary cold weather event and nature is recovering.  We did not lose as many plants as I feared, and those in pots in the shed mostly look great.

Everything is leafing out and blooming later than usual, but that’s to be expected.  Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is looking good and loaded with flowers.  All of our efforts to kill the native Bermuda grass in this raised bed has failed.  So I guess it’s there to stay.

Before the flowers open completely, they look almost artificial.

Their thin red petals are perfect for hummingbirds.

Purple Bearded Iris are my favorite color of iris.  These are rebloomers and actually do rebloom often.

Behind these beautiful Irises is a native ‘found’ rose bush.  Martha Gonzales rose was found in San Antonio.  It is considered to be very hardy.  But, alas, it certainly looks dead.

At the bottom of what looks like a dead Martha Gonzales are these leaves and a rose.  I’ve trimmed the bush but am uncertain what to do now.  It’s one of those wait and see times.

Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) are all aglow.  This native needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Since we have clay, it’s in a raised bed with amended soil.

Now:  get ready for the Extraordinary-

Last week I saw this stunning plant in a town south of here.  It’s called Parrot Beak Plant (Lotus Berthelotii).  With such bright flower color, of course it’s tropical.

It is so striking and gorgeous that I’m patting myself on the back for not buying one.  I’m trying to stay away from tropical plants that my poor, sweet husband has to carry into the shed.

Also, I read that it needs lots of water and cool weather to bloom.  With summer on the horizon, that’s not going to happen.  So I’ll just enjoy the pictures.

The plants that do well in our area, while some may be considered ordinary, are a blessing and certainly make gardening easier.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants.  And that’s pretty much the same thing.”  unknown

Sweet, Sweet Spring

Freed from our cocoons at last.  The warmth of the sun, the green buds on the trees, and a few colorful flowers is a blessing.  I’d do cartwheels, if I could.

Native Redbud trees by the side of rural roads in our area signals spring.

Some of them have paler blossoms.

Although you can’t see them in any of my pictures, there are tons of bees on the flowers.

The Redbuds with the darker flowers really pop.

Love them.

In the yard, things are greening up.  One the left is a Mock Orange bush.  To the right is a David Austin rose.

The Maple is forming leaves.  Not sure which variety of maple it is.

First couple of Dutch Iris have flowers.  After that artic freeze, it’s so reassuring when a plant shows signs of surviving.

Last fall I planted some tiny bulbs of Lady Jane Tulips (Tulipa clusiana).  The foliage had appeared this February when that devastating freeze hit.  But now, here the flowers have popped up.

I like their short stems that make them more sturdy in our strong winds.

This is how they look after the sun has risen high in the sky.

Lady Janes are Species Tulips, which means they are native to warmer areas, like the Mediterranean area.  So they do not need a deep cold to survive and should be a perennial.  Of course, time will tell how well they do here.

There are other species tulips, like the Texas Tulip and Tubergens Gem Tulip available at Southern Bulbs company in East Texas.  Usually, they only show the bulbs that are to be planted at that time on their website.

Redbuds only bloom a short time, so it will be time to say good-bye soon.  Enjoyed having you.

As spring wakes up our plants, this year it will be especially important to check out what survived the winter.  If we’re patient enough, maybe we’ll see that some things that look dead actually aren’t.  But if you’re like me, I’m ready to get on with it.

“If you think nobody cares if you are alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”  unknown

Hope for Gardeners

The old expression “Hope springs eternal” definitely defines gardeners’ attitudes.  Now as it warms up and we see a little green outside, our hope for a great spring ratchets up. (I mean ‘ratchets up’ from the old timey meaning, not the hip-hop one.)

Of course, the weeds are alive and well, but some other plants are, too.

Every year I plan to take this Texas Scarlett Quince  (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’) out.  Then it flowers for a short time, so it stays to see another day.

Because it is the first thing to bloom, it adds some much needed color.  This year its flowers were delayed due to Uri.  When did weathermen start naming winter storms?

Some Daffodils already had foliage before the storm, so those got zapped and probably won’t bloom this year.

Just appreciate those brave little souls who are flowering.

Only one daffodil in this bed made it.

Native Yarrow (Achillea millefolum) is amazing.  Millifoium means a thousand leaves.  It’s a native evergreen and is as tough as nails.  Plus, it spreads.  The flowers are white clusters on a stem above the foliage.

I wondered if the Amaryllis bulbs would survive.  Here they are standing tall.  The other little plants are either Gulf Coast Penstemon or Gomphrena.  Both are in this bed.

Just planted these Dwarf Candytufts (Iberis sempervines).  After the horrible freeze, cold hardiness is more important than ever.  The label says these are cold hardy down to minus 20.  Wow.

What a bright spot in the early spring garden.  I’ll be watching to see how it performs.

Hope you are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel where you live.  Spring, warm days, sunshine, and flowers will come.

“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”  Robert H. Schuller

Inhale Deeply and Relax

Now that the sun is shining and the days are warmer here, people want to rush outside and chop off all the dead limbs and leaves frozen by the extreme cold from two weeks ago.

But horticulturists are urging that it’s too early to do that.  It’s possible that another freeze will come later this month.  Leaving the dead parts could help protect the plants if that happens.  So, we should all just chill and not get frantic about what it looks like in our yards.

So all those plants, like this miniature Indian Hawthorne, that looks dead as a door nail might have viable branches and roots.  In a couple of weeks, use the thumbnail test to see if the branches are okay.  Scratch into a limb to see if the wood is soft and alive.

That same Indian Hawthorne last spring.

We have four of these Hawthorne and would be sad to lose them, but sometimes, we just have to accept something and move on.

Native plants, like these Oxeye Daises, fared well and are ready for spring.

It has surprised me how hardy these Gulf Coast Penstemon have been.  They spread fast and now look good after the sub zero weather.

Plants in pots naturally took a bigger hit.  Pretty sure that this Rosemary will need to be replaced.

Greenery from many bulbs were already above ground.  These Dutch Irises may actually still be able to produce blooms this spring because not all of the foliage froze.

Most Iris leaves or fans look healthy.

Nice surprise – a little Hyacinth is already blooming.  Yeah.

Even in a pot, Dianthus proves to be a winner.  Really have come to appreciate these plants.  Their colors are bright and cheery.

Ditch Daylilies looking good.

Pincushion plants have proved to be incredibly hardy.

Wild Foxglove looking good.

Artemesia looks a little sad but should recover.

I was concerned about bulbs that were planted in the fall.  But these Alliums look fine.

A native evergreen Yarrow that will have white flowers looks good as new.

Some trees, on the other hand, look dead.  This Yaupon Holly looks bad.  Time will tell how damaged the roots and trunks were.

Another casualty of being in a container is this Pittsporoum.  It didn’t seem to matter how old the plant was.

Afghan Pines (Pinus eldarica) don’t look so bad.  When we plant for our zone, and the weather suddenly turns much colder than that zone, then plants are at risk.  We consider heat and drought to be the biggest factor of a plant’s survival.

The Live Oak in the background looks bad, but we need to remember that Live Oaks naturally lose their leaves in the spring and new ones appear.

We planted these Oleanders last fall. Poor things.

One of my favorite trees because it is evergreen is Cherry Laurel.  Now the experts say that deciduous trees do better in a deep, deep freeze.  The leaves on the ends of branches died, but the leaves on the inside of the tree are green.  We’ll see if it’s system was weakened.

Rejoice that spring is almost here.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” -Helen Keller

Gratitude in All Circumstances

Gratitude is a daily attitude.  Wake up thinking about how blessed you are.  We lost electricity for hours for 3 days.  I’m thankful that we had any power and that we had a fireplace to burn wood in the daytime and lots of covers for the night.  We were without water for 6 days.  Bottled water was bought for just such a time.

I’m really sorry for those people who were in much worse conditions.  The poor always suffer more.  Wish I could change that.

Lately there has been lots of ridicule about Texas for not being able to manage the electrical power grid.  This is in defense of the electrical companies.  I am in no way connected to them.  Just did a little research.

First of all, this was probably the weather event of the century.  Last week It was minus one a couple of days with a high still in one digit numbers.  One day this week, it was 80 degrees.  Lows average in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s and 60’s this time of the year.

Secondly, electrical production is different in the south than in the north.  According to the Texas comptroller, for 2020, these are the sources used to produce electricity:  natural gas: 47.4%, coal : 20.3%, wind: 20%, and nuclear: 10.8.

Notice that there is no water on the list.  That’s because Texas doesn’t have the water for hydroelectric power.  We are in drought most of the year.

All power sources have drawbacks.  Even hydroelectric power alters waterways and life cycles of fish, wildlife, and plants.

Solar requires massive blocks of land to produce enough commercially.  One has been proposed about 40 miles away.  It is to cover 3,000 acres.  I don’t know how much electricity it will generate.  Sure, there are miles and miles of vacant land in the Big Bend area.  Then the issue becomes how to transport electricity to populated areas hundreds of miles away.

And there’s the threat of danger from explosions of nuclear power plants.  Burning fossil fuels creates environmental problems.

This was an early snowfall one spring.  Bet this Eastern Meadowlark was as surprised as we were.

Love buttermilk skies.  We cherish the country views.  That’s why we moved here.

Now we come to wind turbines, that many people laud as the perfect power.  For those who have to see them from their property, they are definitely not perfect.  There goes our wide open skies view.

These are massive and humongous eyesores.  The initial cost is high.  They require constant maintenance.  When they no longer work, they still clutter up the landscape because the companies who own them are not required to take them down.

Although the companies won’t admit it, wind turbines do kill birds and create noise pollution.  But the worst part is that they produce intermittent energy and are not reliable.  Many days they stand like beached whales, not turning their blades.  Bottom line:  the government needs to stop giving them tax abatements.

Now, what does all this have to do with gratitude? Surviving the last storm was a gift.  Any day we wake up with good health and have a family that loves us is amazing.  The beauty of the coming spring brings joy.  Just think of all the positives in your life.

Less criticism and more positive comments both in public platforms and personal ones will make life better for all. I’m not trying to be Polly Annie; just don’t like what is happening in our dear country.   Okay.  Now I’m stepping off my soapbox.

“Enjoy the little things.  For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Robert Brault

Deep Freeze and Hearts

The winter storm we have just endured in Texas is one of those for the history books.  I’ve done a little research about temperatures in Texas.  The highest ones in the summer were 120 degrees in Monahans in 1994 and 120 degrees in Seymour in 1936.  That’s no surprise.  But the lowest in Tulia in 1899 and in Seminole in 1933 was minus 23.

But I think our minus 1 might it for this century.  At least, I hope so.

Like most of Texas, we had electric rolling blackouts.  Luckily, we stayed warm with a fireplace and lots of cover.

Only wild creatures would wander out in these temperatures.

The worst part has been no water.  The pipes have been frozen for 6 days.  Even as the snow melts and the temperatures are rising, we still have no water.  My husband has brought in snow to melt in order to flush commodes.

The hardships of winter.  I truly sympathize with northerners who put up with this every year.

Continuing with the Valentine hearts theme, February reminds us what love means.  It is caring more about the other person than yourself.

Am I the only one who loves the smell of Rosemary?  I consider it romantic.  Also, it’s a great herb to use in roasted vegetables.

“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”  Marilyn Monroe

Today the heart shape is widely used as a symbol of love.  Remember exchanging valentines in grade school?  And the teasing?

Heart with sedge.  This Sedge was planted and is not the invasive kind.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”   Oscar Wilde.

Old fashioned Geranium.

Obviously, this Bleeding Hearts is not in my garden.  Our soil is too alkaline.  I did try one in a pot years ago.  I think our heat got to it.

Anyway, it’s a perfect heart shape.

“Roses are red…”  Nope.  These are steel, made by my niece, who is a welder.  They’re unique and heavy.

Stay warm.  This month is turning out to be a lollapalooza.

“Ninety percent of being married is just shouting ‘what’ from other rooms.”  unknown