Weary of Summer

A few cooler mornings herald the coming of autumn in reality, not just on the calendar.

Just look at the that Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) and all the bright red blooms.  It doesn’t look stressed because it’s in the shade.  This was taken a couple of weeks ago at the AgriLife center in San Angelo.

 Turk’s Cap in my yard is in full sun, so the leaves are lighter in color and there aren’t as many flowers.

Also, at the Ag building was this ground cover in the Tradescantia family.  Growing around the trunk of a large oak, it was in full shade.  I asked but couldn’t find out the variety.

Back home where the front porch is shady part of the day, but still has bright light, is a tropical hibiscus.

In the shade part of the day, this Dianthus still has pretty flowers.

This protected corner next to the house is a good spot for Kolanchoe.  It  gets very little direct, harsh sunlight.

The original plant came from my mother about 20 years ago.  The flowers grow on the ends of stems and can become so heavy, the branch breaks off.

Irises require full sun but each new flower looks fresh.  But the foliage, which lasts for months looks bedraggled.  Grasshoppers have taken chunks out of it.

Roses have started to bloom after taking a hiatus during summer’s hottest days.  This flower is on Belinda’s Dream, an Earthkind rose.

This reblooming ‘Prickly Sensations’ Daylily was a bright surprise.  It didn’t bloom in the spring, so I was happy to see it.

Datura or Moon Flower or Jimsomweed must have some shade.  The leaves get ragged, but the flower which only lasts one morning, is bright and cheery.

After trying to get a picture of this tiny butterfly with its wings open, I decided that this was the best shot I could get.  It might be a Northern Cloudywing butterfly.

The plant is Caryopteris, which has definitely seen better days.  After the deep freeze, the foliage never totally filled out.  It probably needs to be cut back.

Shade makes it easier to endure the summer, both for humans and plants.  Nothing like sitting in the shade and enjoying a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.

“It’s amazing how little you can know about a new place.  I look back on some of my most naive, or or most ignorant mistakes, and wonder what I could have been thinking.  But the truth is I just didn’t know.  In the world of gardening, you often learn by messing it up royally.”  Mary Irish

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

What’s Normal?

Quick.  Name 5 or 10 ways your life was not normal during 2020.  Here’s my list:  School closings, Masks, Isolation, Restaurant and store closings, Stand six feet apart, No travel, Quarantine, Nasal Swabs testing, Social distancing, Events canceled, No hospital visits, Virtual school and everything else.  I could also add limited supplies, especially paper goods.

Here we are in 2021 and things have continued to be unusual for some of us.  The first half of the year had some of the same restrictions listed above.  Add to that covid vaccinations and strange weather patterns, especially for us in Texas.  The epic freeze that lasted for days will always remain in our minds and in the records.

During July, we’re usually melting under three digit temperatures and piercing sunlight.  Instead, we’re having mild temperatures (in mid to high 80’s and a few 90’s) and humidity.  The areas around us have received heavy rains.  We’ve managed a couple of inches in two weeks, which is still unusual.

So plants, like this Gladiola are blooming way past their normal time.

Many container plants were lost during the unheard of below freezing days. So I replaced the yellow Cannas.  Still like them slightly elevated in the trough.  

Also lost Dusty Miller, but it’s an inexpensive plant that grows quickly.  It’s already grown tall from a small bedding plant.  During most winters here, it survives in a pot.

After the dead branches and trunks were cut off, Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is showing off.

We’ve had to cut away dead wood from many trees and woody shrubs and lost one large Texas Ash.

Big puffs of soft pink clusters draw one’s eyes up high.

One plant that did not suffer at all was White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).  In fact, it’s multiplying so fast that I’m finding clumps all over this flowerbed that need to be dug up.

Not sure if Gaura’s nickname Whirling Butterflies refers to the flowers that twirl around in the wind or the many butterflies that land on it.  It feeds lots of pollinators.

‘Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lilies are bold in their leaf size and flowers.  I like both their buds and unopened flowers.  A good old southern standby, it’s tough as nails.  It really thrives on the east side of the house.

Their opened flowers only last a day or two, but others are opening soon.

The return of this unknown plant surprised me.  I’ve had it about three years and don’t know what it is.  I thought it was a sage, but it doesn’t get tall or woody.  The taller stems reach a little over a foot tall.  It dies down to the ground and returns in early summer, even this past winter.

Two hardy plants:  Blue Fortune Agastache and Marjorie Fair Polyantha shrub rose.  Marjorie Fair rose has clusters of roses on long stems that tend to bend low to the ground.  Both of these plants are great performers.

So, whatever you consider to be normal, I hope you’re having a great summer.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”                    Arthur Conan Doyle

Nature Keeps Us Guessing

Getting close to the end of May and more rain is a welcome surprise.  We’ve had a few hotter days but nothing to complain about.

Lilies are starting to bloom.  Sorry that I can’t remember where I got these and what their name is.

Apricot Fudge Lily is a healthy lily that is faithful to come up in the late spring.

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been in this bed for years. The colors of the flower petals seem to be paler than usual.

On the left is Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissu) which is so soft to the touch.  It originates in the Mediterranean area, so it loves the heat.  Right at home here.

Graham Thomas Rose is called an heirloom rose but was bred by David Austin in 1983.  It is considered to be one of his most popular roses.  It’s tall and loves summer heat.  Look at the abundance of the petals.

Love the color of this tropical Hibiscus.

Shasta daisies create a nice bright spot in the garden.

Native evergreen Yarrows are great survivors.  They made it through the horrific cold this winter and shine as good as ever.

The fern like foliage contrasts with other garden leaves.

Dianthus have so many good qualities.  The only negative is that deadheading takes a while because they produce so many flowers.  Guess that shouldn’t even be considered a negative.

A true heirloom rose from Antique Rose Emporium.  I don’t know which one it is because I received an unidentified cutting at one of their seminars.  It blooms continuously all through the summer and into the fall.

Thanks for reading.  Your comments are welcome.

Texans don’t call someone pretentious or foolish… they say he’s “all hat and no cattle.”

Most Unusual Spring

Usually, by this time in May, warm or even hot days are the norm.  This year, we seem to be stuck in some colder days and some warmer days pattern.  It’s been hard to force myself to weed and do other chores outside on those colder overcast days.

However, I must admit that many of the plants have thrived in this cooler weather.  These Coral Drift Roses are full of flowers.  Drift roses only grow to a height of 3 to 3 and a half feet tall.

They are extremely tough and obviously survived our harsh winter.  Our hot, dry summers don’t phase them, either.  They bloom over and over throughout the summer and fall.  They are a cross between full-size groundcover roses and miniature roses.

These roses are the best for blooming and have not had any diseases in the six years they’ve been in the ground.

Love them and highly recommend them.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the color of the flowers.   They are between a deep rose and a coral color.

Another really hardy plant is Dwarf Stella D’Oro Daylily.  I like that it grows low and is a repeat bloomer.

I lost everything in these pots in February.  Replanted a Rosemary and added some annuals in the other pots.

Etoile Violette Clematis was not bothered by the cold, even in a container.  The original label stated that it is cold hardy down to minus 20.  Hope that is never tested.

Even though it’s listed as a summer bloomer, it’s a rebloomer from late spring to late fall. This vine is seven years old.

An old pot of Dianthus also is looking good.  It’s amazing how cold and heat hardy they are.

Last year, I added some Ox-Eye Daisies to this trough, mainly to keep down the weeds.  They weren’t watered much, so the ones on the left died.

I do like this bottle bush my husband made for me several years ago.

I’ve had Yellow Columbine for years, so I’m giving these red ones a try.  The label indicated that they are cold hardy down to below 0 degrees.  Nice, bright two-toned flowers.

Our recent rains have brought lots of flowers on these climbing roses.  Now I just need to deadhead them for more blooms.

Hollyhocks are starting to bloom.  Several years ago, an abundance of rain brought rust disease.  Internet information said to dig them up, roots and all and destroy.  I tried to dig them up, but must not have succeeded because they keep popping up.

Hooray, Larkspurs blooms are scattered across the back yard.  I always look forward to them.  Very cheery.

Hope your late spring is bringing lot of flowers to your space.

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”  John Glenn

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.”

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

Romantic Roses

Ahh, February, the month of romance.  I would have chosen a spring month, when roses are blooming.  But, here we are at the latter part of winter.  This is the time to plant roses.  What better gift for a sweetheart than roses?  Maybe, roses and chocolate.

If you buy roses at a florist or grocery store, they will have strong, straight stems and perfectly formed flowers.  They have been breed to sell.  But they won’t have a scent.  So an alternative might be to buy a rose bush and plant it for your sweetie.

This book was written by a lady from Houston.  It focuses on the origin of each particular rose shown, the hybridizer, and significance of the name.

The pictures are fantastic.   Anaïs Ségalas was hybridized by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Vibert to honor a French lady poet. A very conventional lady, she wrote “Love, pray, dream, that’s the existence of all women.”  Not very inspiring for females of our time.

Don Juan is probably a rose you recognize.  It was hybridized in Italy and named in the US by Jackson and Perkins.  Named after the seductive legendary lover, it definitely says romance.

A quote about Don Juan, the man:  “Heaven offended, laws violated, girls led astray, families dishonored, relatives outraged, wives ruined, husbands driven to despair.”

Named after a famous German who came to live in Texas in the 1800’s.  He is known for traveling around the Southwest and discovering hundreds of plant species.

Some of the pages in the book are a double spread of a particular rose.  This one is Graham Thomas.  It is a hybridization of Charles Austin and Iceberg.  He was a 20th century gentleman who lived a gentleman’s life.

His friend and rose hybridizer, David Austin,  took him to a field filled with new roses and let Thomas choose which rose would bear his name.

A fun, pretty book.

Now to a very practical book.  Judy Barrett is a lady who has spent a great deal of time growing roses and determining how to be successful doing so.  Because of Texas soils and weather, it can be difficult to grow roses.  The eastern Piney Woods is the only area where it is easy.

The advice is extensive and helpful.

I love the Peace Rose but don’t have one.  Such a sweet look and history.

Old world and antique roses have lovely aromas and are hearty.

Filled with specific hints and information, I highly recommend this book.

“I’d love to have the whole place swimming in roses.”  James Joyce

Simple Small Surprises

Some people think that the big moments – like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, attending an spectacular event, or a wedding with all the bells and whistles – are the most important part of life. Those major events are memorable and photographs can be enjoyed for years.

But the majority of life is made up of life as usual; just earning a living and doing the daily tasks that need to be done.  So, the old saying “take time to smell the roses” is truly excellent advice for enjoying everyday life.

About three months ago, we bought a trailer load of compost.  With everything that has been happening, we just finished distributing it around the flower beds.  So as we slowly finished that and some other projects this week, I noticed some small sweet things that  brightened my day.

The Pincushion (Scabiosa pincushion) flowers stopped blooming when summer heat hit.  The cooler weather has brought a few flowers.

Pincushion Flowers get their name from how the center of the flower looks like pins (stamens) stuck into a cushion.  Pincushions were in common use when more people sewed their clothes.  Some of us old fogies still have them.

Growing low to the ground, a Scentimental rose catches my eye.  I love the stripped petals.

Early in the mornings, flocks of robins spread out in the yard.  Then, the usual residents join them for breakfast.  When I crack the door just a little to get a picture, they all scatter.  Someone must yell, “Hurry, everyone return to your hiding place.”  So they fly into trees and bushes.

This Mockingbird flew to the top of a Chinese Pistache tree.

A couple of pairs of Cardinals live in the bushes but are very shy about getting their picture taken.

It surprised me to see a Gulf Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) flowering.

Indian Summer Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) were planted in September.  They both had flowers.  But a day later, the flowers were gone.  Probably bitten off by a jackrabbit.  So I caged them.  This week I noticed one had a new flower.

This might be Mystic Blue Spirals, but I doubt it because the foliage isn’t shiny.  The plant has been in this pot for years and looks about like this from spring through fall. This group of Reblooming Irises has bloomed off and on since spring.  Not all Reblooming Irises perform this well.  The color is spectacular.

Appreciation and gratitude define how we experience life and react to the good and the difficult parts of life. They also make life infinitely sweeter.

“The best part of life’s journey is who you get to share it with.”  unknown

Fall Color

Yes.  We do have autumn color here in upper Central Texas.  The colors are different than in the eastern US, and they may not last as long, but they are beautiful.  I suspect that the colors don’t last as long because the temperatures stay high longer here.

Red Oaks keep some of their green leaves while others turn orange red.

Once the oak leaves fall on the ground, their color has faded to a light golden brown.

Clusters of orange-red berries drape at the ends of the branches of a Chinese Pistache tree.

The leaves of Eve’s Necklace turned golden yellow.  The seed “necklaces” are still hanging from the branches.

This Katy Road Pink rose bush has really large rose hips.  In Texas, it has retained this name because it was found at that location in Houston.  But, it was later determined that it was a Carefree Beauty rose that was developed by Dr. Buck at Iowa State University.

The size and bright orange red color, as well as the large number on a bush, makes the rose hips stand out.  Carefree Beauty roses do well in our heat and bloom from spring until the first frost.  It was named Earth-Kind® Rose of the year in 2006.

Small Mexican Buckeye trees/shrubs produce their seeds in unique shaped pods.  The seeds themselves are coal black and poisonous, as is the foliage.

In the spring, clusters of small pink flowers adorn the bush.

This small Agastache in the Hyssop family was planted a couple of months ago.  They are supposed to be cold hardy down to 10 degrees.  Heavy mulching for winter is encouraged.

Ever since it was placed in the ground, it has been covered with butterflies.  The temps have dropped in the mornings, but all sorts of butterflies continue to flock to it.  The butterfly in this picture is either Painted Lady or Tawny Emperor.

This Texas Ash is 13 or 14 years old but this is the first year the leaves have turned a deep gold color.

Hope your fall is colorful and calm.  With all the social distancing, being outside to enjoy nature is refreshing and comforting.

“Earth has no words that can convey the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus.”   Charles Sturgeon