Garden Preferences

What kind of garden makes you smile?  When I see very formal gardens, like those in European castle gardens, I feel intimidated.  Of course, they’re beautiful with perfect, precise lines with lots of clipped topiaries.  But all I can think of is the maintenance and how restricted they make me feel.

The type of garden that makes me happy is one with lots of different types of plants.  I lean towards ones with cluttered flowerbeds – not messy, but full of beautiful plants.  I would consider myself to be an eclectic gardener because I love so many different types of plants.

Natives, like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), would definitely have a place in my garden.  First, they are extremely hardy and dependable.  Second, they require less water than many other plants.  Third, the pollinators need them.

Turk’s Cap has such intricate flowers.  Absolutely love them.

A must-have native for me is Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea).  There are so many others that I could name, like Caryopteris, Columbine, Gaura, Hollyhock, and Zinnias.  Just think of the flowers in your grandmother’s flowerbeds and the memories they evoke.

John Fanick Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is another Texas Native.

I would also throw in some wildflowers.  Iron Weed (Vernonia gigantea) blooms in the hottest part of the summer.  I especially like American Basket Flower and Texas Blue Bells.  The early spring ones like Bluebonnets, Indian Blankets, and Paint Brushes are well known and loved.

Clammy Weed (Iltis Capparaceae) is less known.  They bloom in the summer. The seed pods burst and the wind scatters them all over, so they are surprises the next year, like Larkspurs.

Flowering bushes add a special treat.  Crepe Myrtles add so much color and beauty.

 

Look at those big, full clusters.  How could anyone not like them?

These Dynamite Crepe Myrtles needed some serious pruning after the freeze.  We cut off lots of dead, thick branches.  But they look gorgeous now.

The color of the flowers used to be a darker red, but they are fuller this year in this lighter color.  Other flowering small trees that I really like are Golden Lead Ball, Rose pf Sharon and Eve’s Necklace.

 

And I will always have some tropical plants in pots.  That is, as long as we are physically able to haul them into the shed for the winter.  African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis), with its long stems blowing in the wind are fascinating.  It’s a succulent from South Africa.

Ixora is native to the Philippians and the surrounding area of Asia.

Rhizomes, like this Bearded Iris, will always be an important part of my garden.  Daylilies and Cannas are good old southern staples in warm climates.

Daylilies are tuberous roots.  Love all kinds of daylilies.  They can be tucked into any small empty space.

Let’s not forget bulbs, like Crinums, Daffodils and Giant Spider Lilies.  The choices are endless.

Some plants have sentimental importance to me.  This Kolanchoe was given to me by my mother.  A plant given to me always reminds me of that person.

Kolanchoe is native to Madagascar and parts of western Africa.  It was also the first plant sent into space to the Soviet Salyut 1 space station in 1979.

This has been long, but I hope it brings to mind what you like in a garden.  Just embrace those choices and don’t worry about what is “correct” according to landscapers.

“The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.”  Ray D. Everson

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

Still Blooming

Even the plants are tired and weary after a blazing hot summer.  But some hardy souls are still blooming.

Love Henry Duelberg Sage.  The white in the front is actually his wife, Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’).  The deep purple one is his namesake.  Found on two grave sites, the plant names honor them.

These perennials bloom from spring to winter.  I have them in pots and in the ground scattered around the yard.  Can’t have too much of a good thing.  They are a Texas native and a treasure.

Even though Rock Rose (Cistus x canescens) is native to the Mediterranean area, we Texans like to claim it as our own.  It is a great dependable perennial.  I love to look out in the morning and see those little pink flowers greeting me with a new day.

In a new flower bed, we planted three rose bushes, some small plants, and some bulbs.  Immediately, armadillos began to dig up the bulbs.  So we put up wire barriers, which have now been removed, and some large stones around the bed to discourage those little buggers.

Then I planted a few small annual Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) hoping to make it more difficult to get into the soil.  Boy, did they grow and cover everything.  Now I hope the few small plants will survive with no sun.  At least, gardening is a learning experience and an adventure.

It seems to take Bougainvillea forever to start blooming.  The gorgeous fuchsia-colored brackets aren’t the flowers.  The tiny white centers are the flowers.  In its own good time, it decides to put on a fantastic show.  Some fertilizer specifically for Bougainvillea helps.

This is definitely a zone 9 or hotter plant, so it has to go inside when the temperatures drop below 50.  Cut off all the long branches.  This makes it easier to carry and will help with new growth and blooming in the spring.

One of the few annuals I replace every year is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).  It doesn’t reseed and even our mild winters are too cold.  But it adds movement and grace to the landscape.

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be.”  unknown

A Little Rain, Please

A brief shower does wonders for the land and for our morale.  We had two quick rains within a week.  Both of them together did not add up to an inch.  But as a result of a little rain, the temperatures are cooler and water from the sky perks everything up.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is drooping a little from the heat and isn’t blooming as much as earlier.   It’s native to southeastern US and to Texas.  One of it’s other names is Texas Mallow.  It’s a hardy perennial, even in our clay soil.

It looks like it would be difficult to get nectar from the tight blooms, but bees manage very well.

The plant dies down to the ground in the winter.  In the spring, it’s a beauty.

This Prairie Sage was planted 6 years ago, and I don’t remember where I got it.  It may be Artemisia ludoviciana, but it doesn’t look like the pictures I found on the internet.

It does spread by rhizomes but not aggressively.  Its lacy look provides a nice silvery accent in the yard.

After being in full sun all summer, these Purple Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum”) have lost their purple color in the plumes and foliage.

I don’t buy many annuals but consider these worth the cost.  These came in small pots.  It’s interesting that the far one did not grow as tall or full as they usually do.

This metal Roadrunner is stuck into the ground in front of a concrete planner.  Metalbird company started in New Zealand, but has an American branch.

Ixora is a tropical plant from Asia.  I’ve had one in a pot for about 18 years, which has become pretty root bound.  So I purchased another small plant.

The flowers are so pretty.  In Asia it’s grown in full sun, but here in Texas, my pots receive some sun, but not all day.  Our Death Star tends to burn leaves.

Purple Shamrock Plant or Oxalis (Oxalis regnellii) is also called Wood Sorrel.  It’s looking pretty sad at the end of the season.  The flowers are pale pink.  This one has been in this pot for many, many years and should probably be repotted into a larger pot.

Mine gets filtered light and is taken inside during the winter.  The green leafed Oxalis is considered a weed by some people, especially in the lawn.  I don’t think I would mind that.

Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is another plant that needs an upgrade in pot size.  Native to South Africa, it can grow to be a large 10 ft. tall shrub there.  I’ve tried it in full sun but seems to do better in filtered or morning light.

Hope you are getting some relief from the summer heat.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  E. B. White

Native and Adapted Plants

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas A&M Extension Agents have been on a mission for years.  They have been preaching about the benefits of native plants.  They also add that many plants have adapted well to our climate.

Native plants are winter hardy, evergreen, or spread seeds.  So that means they survive to grow and bloom in season.  Native also means that it grows naturally in your area.  However, many natives that are not in your immediate vicinity do well in your climate.

Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) can be seen occasionally in our pastures.  But they are much more prolific further south.  But they survive our winters.

These look like tulips, but they open up more later in the morning.

Both of these plants were bought at the same time, but one flower is a deeper purple than the other one.  I’ve had both of these for several years.  Their seeds have not produced other plants.  Mystery.

There are vastly different regions in Texas.  Rainfall varies from 54 inches annual average in the east to 10 inches in the west.  Soils range from acidic to alkaline and from sand to clay to caliche to loam.  Winter temperatures, plus rainfall, and soils make native plants area specific.  Sometimes, I try to stretch it, but end up having too many pot plants to carry inside.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dudecandra) is one of those natives that pops up all over the yard.

A friend gave me seeds years ago.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads by underground rhizomes, but it’s fairly slow.  This has been here 10 or more years.

It’s surprising how well this thin leafed plant does in full sun or shade.

Love the turban flowers.

Iron Weed ((Veronia baldwinii fasciculata) seeds were given to me about 5 years ago.  So it also spreads slowly.

The blooms don’t last a long time.  They do grow in the ditches not too far away.

Sages are great performers in our area.  I have a flower bed full of Henry Duelburg Salvia or Mealycup Sage (Saliva farinacea).  The wind blew some seeds into a field nearby, so I dug them up and put them in several pots.  Some were taken to a club plant sale.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a Texas native.  However, the ones I’ve noticed around here are not as large as the ones I have bought.  Pollinators love this plant.

Passion Vine is also a Texas native.  Don’t think they grow naturally in our area but are well-adapted.

It actually has a tropical look.

Gregg’ Mistflower, more commonly known as Blue Mistflower, (Conoclinium greggii) is a Texas native that grows gangbusters here.  To the left is Mexican Petunia that is so well adapted that it’s invasive.

One of the best plants to attract butterflies is Bluemist Flower.

There are many, many more Texas natives that do well in a home landscape.  If chosen carefully, they can be successful and bring beauty to the yard.

”When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”  Chief Tecumseh

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Books, Nurseries, Capitol

On a recent visit to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, we made stops at some nurseries.  No surprise there.

In the parking lot of a nursery, this flaming red Celosia is a magnet.  This one is probably Dragon’s Breath Celosia.  Celosias are annuals, so I don’t plant them much.  I would love to get Celosia to reseed.  Anyone know a trick?

This Texas native Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads and flops but has beautiful bright flowers.  In full sun, it stands more upright.

An unusual characteristic is that it grows well in arid West Texas and in boggy Houston, which is in extreme Southeast Texas.  A versatile plant that is hardy and grows in the sun or shade.

A stand of these natives were also in the parking lot.  Maybe it’s Threadleaf Groundsel?

Inside the nursery, this Dwarf Thurderhead Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Black Pine’ ) grows naturally in ball tufts.  Could be a nice focal point in a garden.

Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea (Lamiaceae)) is a hardy native perennial.  Love the deep purple.

Another beauty is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), which grows extremely well in the mild winters of Austin.  It freezes in my area.  I do love the soft velvet look.

Grasses have used in many public and some private landscapes for several years. Finally, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and want more in my yard.  There are so many varieties available now that it’s difficult to choose.

Every fall the book festival is held in the capitol building and in many large white tents set up on the streets around the capitol.  Authors from all over the US and some from abroad talk about their subjects.

It’s a haven for book lovers.

The artist for this cowboy sculpture was a New Yorker who created it in the early 1900’s.

Here’s Mexican Bush Sage used in the landscape.

Several monuments are scattered in the large area surrounding the capitol.

This monument honors the southerners who died in the Civil War.

Not that I’m prejudged, but this is a beautiful capitol building.  Inside, the impressive dome area and other public areas make it worth a visit.

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”           P. J. O’Rourke

Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

In the Good Old Summertime

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.”

This song comes from the Tin Pan Alley group of New York City music publishers and songwriters that started in 1885 and went through the early 1900’s.  It was originally the name for a specific area in the Flower District of Manhattan.

To me, the good old summertime means what’s happening in my yard because of the heat and lack of rain.

These are the small palm tree looking stalks that forecast the blooming of Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius).  In spite of the name, they are drought tolerant.  The stalks will reach 7 feet with small sunflowers by the end of August.

Reliable Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), a Texas native, continues to flower with their cute little turbans.  It grows well in most parts of the state in sun or shade.

A great plant for our super hot summers.

There are two birds that we can count on every summer:  Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.  The creation on top of this Hummingbird feeder is the work of Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallows are pretty birds that look for a ledge where they build a nest of mud, grasses, twigs, etc.  The birds stand on these ledges and poop all over whatever is beneath that ledge.  They also return to the same nesting area each year.  This includes their young as adults.  Swooping in low, they almost run into your head.

Because the population had increased so much and nested under our covered front and back patios, there was always a mess on the floor.  So, we hired a carpenter to eliminate the ledges.

Although they are fewer in number this year, they now build nests on the brick walls and anything up high like where this feeder was hanging.

What a mess to clean up.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial bush that stands up to the heat.  It’s pale color isn’t too showy, but the scent of its foliage is wonderful.  The bees also love it.

The perennial Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) does well in the heat if it’s watered.

Bees flock to its small flowers.

“There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air.”  Peter Mayle

Looking Back

Happy New Year.  A special thank you to those who faithfully read my blog.  I wish you joy and fun in your garden space.

This bitter cold, icy weather outside is a good time to snuggle under a blanket in front of a fireplace and peruse seed and plant catalogs.  I’m also reflecting on some of my favorite plants in my yard.

Here are some of the ones that have done well:Dig a small hole, plant a bulb and voila:  you’ll have flowers for years to come.  That’s one reason I love bulbs – one and done.  Plus, they have lovely forms, like this Kindly Light Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’), which brings bright color to spring.

Even the lowly, plain old fashioned Ditch Daylilies are an anticipated joy each spring.  These were planted 12 years ago and still pop up every year with their familiar orange faces smiling at me.

Reblooming Irises come in so many colors and can be used as an accent color in a bed.

Irises are like eating peanuts or potato chips, it’s hard to stop with just a few.

Their color can also play off of other plants, like this Larkspur.  Larkspurs are another favorite flower.  Just toss a few seeds on the groud and rake light over them, and they’ll spring up in the yard for years.

My first bulbs were old fashioned irises that were pass-along gifts from family and friends.  They need less water, so I planted them in a field across the road from the yard.  The success is dependent on the amount of rainfall they receive each year.  But they’ve been faithful for 12 years.

No yard is complete without some flowering shrubs.  The bright red clusters on this Dynamite Crape Myrtle are gorgeous.  A group of three shrubs were planted together 11 years ago.  It took a while for them to get established in the alkaline clay in our yard.  But they have been great performers for years.

Some Crape Myrtles grow to be 30 feet tall trees.  Dynamite is a medium size that remains a shrub size.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) is right at home here.  Pollinators love it.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a native that also attracts lots of pollinators.  It grows in full sun or light shade.

Bees flock to the delicate petals on Duranta flowers.  It’s easy to find shrubs that attract pollinators.  It’s been harder for me to find evergreen shrubs that are flowering and different from the usual shrubs sold at nurseries.

Hardy Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) blooms all summer and draws pollinators.

And finally, another pass-along plant from a friend:  Rose of Sharon or Althea (Hibiscus syriacus).  It’s been absolutely one the best blooming shrubs I have.  The flowers appear in late spring and continue blooming until late fall.

I’m so thankful that there are plants that will survive in our harsh environment of strong sun and scarce rain; also, plants have to establish a root system in our heavy clay, high alkaline, and caliche soil.

“Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”  Mother Teresa