Some Hardy Beauties

One of the garden tasks that I usually avoid is planting annuals.  To me, a few annuals in pots is all that’s needed to bring something different into the garden.  I love the work horses of the garden – the hardy, reliable perennials.

Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been returning for years.  They are native to North America and were probably used by the Plains Indians for medicinal purposes.

Plus, pollinators love them because of their shape.  The flat landing strip makes it easy for butterflies and others to land and drink nectar.  The same thing is true for Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum).

Plants don’t have to be expensive.  Several years ago I scattered Larkspur seeds and voila, they appear every year in the spring.  They don’t necessarily come up where they were originally planted.  In fact, this flowerbed didn’t exist when I first put out the seeds.  Wherever the wind carries their seeds is where they will germinate.

Some of my plants remind me each year of the friend who gave me the start of a new plants or seeds.

Bulbs are another source of hardy plants because bulbs in the ground don’t freeze and produce each year.  This Pudgie Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Pudgie’) was ordered from Breck’s.  Since I live in a hot, dry spot, I used to be concerned about ordering from a company based in northern Europe.  But have learned that daylilies do very well here even though they originated in the Far East.

One of the cheapest flowers is also one of the most reliable ones.  The common Zinnia has pretty flowers that return if the seeds aren’t disturbed.  Pollinators visit them frequently.

Hardy Hibiscus have become a favorite because of their size and color.  The morning I took this picture, the humility kept fogging up my lens.

The small purple flowers on the left, French Hollyhocks (Malva Sylvestris Mauritiana), are another gift from a friend.  They can easily be grown from seeds.

New plants appear on the market all the time.  Before I buy, I try to do a little research.  But sometimes, the tag gives you a lot of information.

This Blue Frills Stokes Aster (Stokesia Blue Frills) tag stated that it is hardy down to minus 10 degrees.  It was planted last autumn and truly lived up to that claim.  It made it through our deep freeze.

We all have our favorite places to shop.  I prefer locale nurseries where they are knowledgeable about what grows well in your area.

However, I’ve found that the Lowe’s chain does carry some native plants that do well here.  In fact, they were the first stores to carry Texas Super Star plants.  But that may be changing because I was recently told that the stores are no longer allowed to do their ordering.  A central ordering system will decide on the plants offered.

Wherever I shop, I always ask for local plants.  If they hear it often enough, maybe it will filter up to the bigwigs.

Another pass-a-long that I received years ago is Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum (Sedum reflexum).  It multiples like crazy and has yellow blooms in the spring.

This sedum is also easy to dig up and share.

Viette’s Little Suzy Dwarf Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’) is a modern version of old Black-Eyed Susans.  The flowers are large and lots of stems from one plant.  Can’t help but notice it.

“Friends are “annuals” that need seasonal nurturing to bear blossoms. Family is a “perennial” that comes up year after year, enduring the droughts of absence and neglect.”  unknown

Good-bye to Spring

As an unusually long, cool, wet spring comes to an end, we’re all counting our blessings.  This wonderful weather has been wide spread and a real treat.  It’s near the end of June and no really hot temperatures.  Hooray.It’s sad to say good bye to the spectacular show of Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum.)

Daisies are one of my favorite flowers.  Emphasis on the word “one”.  A Painted Lady is enjoying a flat landing spot.

Many gorgeous spirals on the Vitex or Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has brought a sweet fragrance to the back yard.

In the front yard, another Vitex, but it almost seems like a different species.  The blossoms are smaller, a paler color, and not scented.  In front of the Vitex are some Flame Acanthus, which just keep spreading.

In late fall, I cut both Vitex back severely to keep them from becoming large trees because those are not nearly as attractive.

This flowerbed is anchored by the Vitex and a large Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Between the large bush/trees are Cone Flowers and Rock Roses by the sidewalk.

Behind the Cone flowers is a Bridal Wreath Spiraea, a small Crepe Myrtle, and some Mexican Feather Grass.  So this bed is crammed full.

Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) are also waning, although some will hang on through the summer.

Another absolute favorite.

The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima) hasn’t totally greened up yet.  This is considered to be invasive but that hasn’t happened in this bed.

The ground cover around the Vitex is Stonecrop Sedum.  It helps keep the native grass out of this bed.

This year I’ve planted Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetti) in a pot so it can be carried inside in winter.  One year I tried it in a flower bed; that winter was particulary harsh and killed it.

The flowers have a similar look as Mexican Petunia.

After the initial first flush, the roses are just now starting to bloom again.  Abraham Darby has David Austin’s trademark inner petals.

A new rose that intrigues me is Scentimental.  It was hybridized by Tom Carruth.

He has created more roses than any other living American.

It’s also called a red and white stripped rose.  So far, I haven’t noticed that the smell is that strong, but still love the uniqueness of it.

“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind than on the externals in the world.”  George Washington

Garden Memories, Hopes

When the skies are dreary and the yard is barren, I look for any color, shape, light to lift my spirits.  Although we have not had the rough winter like most of the US, winter cold makes me long for spring.  Guess living most of my life in a dry, hot environment has become part of who I am.

afterfreeze1A few pots of Pansies are still alive – scraggly, but colorful.

afterfreeze2Green from Yellow Columbine sticks out between dead Woodland Fern.  In the spring, I’ll be mumbling about Columbine coming up unwanted in this bed.  Now I’m glad to see something alive.

afterfreeze3Good ole reliable Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum keeps on keeping on.

afterfreeze4Underneath these resting Daylily stalks lies the bulbs that will provide new stalks and gorgeous flowers in the spring.  The promise of new life encourages all gardeners.

afterfreeze5Dead Senna branches will need to be cut off to the ground in the spring, but now they provide seeds for birds.

winteryyar3Twirling Hummingbirds make me smile in all seasons.


winteryyard2Not much rain this fall and winter, so I like the looks of some melting ice on tree branches.

winteryyardThe sunlight made them sparkle like diamonds.

winteryyard4All the Gomphera heads are white now rather than the bright red ones that will bloom in the spring.  Each of these hold about 100 seeds.  They will be so thick that thinning will be required.  I plan to move some to a new bed and to share some.

winteryyard5Pansies just amaze me.  I guess because I’m such a wuss in the cold.

winteryyard8We’ve had several Cardinals in the yard this year.  They are so wary that my attempts at photographing them has not been very successful.

winteryyard9Talk about bringing a bright color to the yard.  I love to watch them from inside a warm house.

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  unknown

Robust Flower Bed

Still have the same dilemma that I always have when planting.  Beds usually become too crowded because the plants get bigger than I imagined they would.  Or there is too much space around the plants.

frontbedhjpgThis bed is visible from the front porch and front windows.

frontbeddI like the colors and the plants individually but overall design needs work.

frontbedbThe yellow border is made up of Stonecrop Sedum.  From a small start taken from my mother’s yard, I have scattered it around in several beds.  This year I put some around the edge of one end of this bed to create a border.

The positive characteristics of this sedum is that it roots and spreads quickly, is drought tolerant, and covers nicely.

frontbed8As soon as summer heats up, the yellow will disappear and leave tall dead stems that will need to be cut off, unless they don’t bother you.  The green will become a dull greyish green.  So it’s not a perfect plant.

frontbedcThis is the first Butterfly Weed (Asclepias) I’ve had that is covered in blooms with a bright orange color.  I have two others in a different bed that look pretty bland.

This plant seems misnamed because it doesn’t attract butterflies like other plants that grow nearby.

frontyard614uIn front of the Butterfly Weed Bush is a native Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) that has filled out this year.  A friend assured me that I would like it when she gave it to me.  And she’s right even though the blooms are not large.

frontbed1These Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum) have spread and bloomed like crazy this year.  These were also a pass-along from a friend.

frontbedNot sure which specific Gomphera these are, but they are a neon magenta color.  I planted them because I didn’t think last year’s Gomphera were coming back.

frontbedmThe Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) have gotten leggy this year, so they are susceptible to being trampled by whatever creatures stomp through them at night.

Some interesting facts about Texas Bluebells:
The Japanese have been breeding them for over 70 years and know them as Lisianthus.  They have developed pink, white and deep purple varieties with both single and double petals.

Texas Bluebells are little known now because they are so pretty.  People have picked them so much that the native flowers haven’t been able to reseed in the wild.

frontbed7Bluebell are delicate looking flowers but are hardy in nature, if left alone.

frontbedkThis monster just keeps growing.  If it didn’t die in the winter, it might just take over the yard.  I don’t remember what it is, but it was bought at a Lady Bird Johnson Center sale, so it’s a native.

frontbedlSandwiched between that plant on the left and the Cone Flowers on the right is another mystery plant.  I don’t think I planted it, but it grew here last year, too.  I keep waiting for it to bloom hoping to identify it.  The leaves look like those of a mum.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, it’s out of here.

frontbedjThe Cone Flowers(Echinacea) did a great job of reseeding because many more are coming up.  The Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) with the red flowers did return but apparently did not seed.  I’m still hoping that some of those seeds will set for next year.

frontbedaLove the look and color of these Coneflowers.

frontbediThe Blue Curls bush (Phacelia congesta) also is growing like a weed.

frontbed9The Blue Curls flowers on stalks are a soft muted purple.

frontbednIn fact, the bush has gotten so big that the wind whirligig won’t move.

frontbed4The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) also is jammed up against a bush.  Small clumps came up all around the original plants.  I have moved several to get a fuller look at this end of the bed, but some four legged varmits keep digging them up.

Makes me wonder if I’ll ever get it right.  I like a nice full look, but not this crowded.

frontbedfLast year three small Strawberry Fields Gompheras (Gompherena haageana) were planted here.  I asked the man at the nursery if they would reseed.  He said “Maybe.”

This year I had given up hope but the other day noticed the mass of tiny plants.

frontbedfgjpgThey are already blooming and getting their height.  So I have plenty of Gompheras to share.

Guess I’ll keep muddling along trying to get the look I want in the flower beds.

“The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.'”  Unknown

Yellow and White Blooms

Because of the weather, everything growing in the yard is late.  The weather:  that often discussed topic that none of us can change.  This year’s catastrophic winter and now spring has affected us all to some degree.  Compared to many, many states, we’ve had it easy.

But we still see the results of a much colder and longer winter than usual.  This winter there were more days, 70, of freezing or below freezing days locally than in written record.  That is well above normal.  Then this week on Tuesday, a 110 year record of the lowest temperature on the latest day of spring was broken with a morning temperature of 35.

blooming6The Columbines (Aquilegia) are sparse this year, but I’m glad we didn’t lose them.  Several shrubs and small trees did not make it.

blooming7Although this particular Columbine is not native, it has adapted very well.  The only Texas native Columbine is red and yellow and the blooms tend to be smaller.

Columbines are perennials that need partial shade.  Mine get morning sun and afternoon shade.  They are considered to be deer resistant.

bloomingThe bloom looks exotic like a tropical.

bloomingbThis sedum with the yellow flowers is a ground cover that is probably a Stonecrop Sedum.  It has not spread as well as I had hoped.  It is hugging some Crinums that have not bloomed yet.

bloomingcSo pretty for such a tiny little flower, but the bright color makes it noticeable.

bloomingdThe flowers on this Ornamental Onion have not truly opened. Last year the hail beat them down to the ground, so I wanted a picture in case that happens again.

Ornamental or Wild Onion is in the Allium family, but I’m not sure if any variety is native to Texas.

blooming3If forced to pick a favorite flower, I would say roses or daisies.  These hardy Ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) perform well every year.  They are native to Europe and milder climates in Asia.

blooming5If I move to the side to get a shot, it appears to be a field of daisies.  I would love that.

blooming4“Fresh as a daisy” is an apt idiom.

With no rain and the wind sapping everything, I’m thankful to have any flowers.

“You can find inspiration from others, but determination is solely your responsibility.”  Dodinsky

The Ordinary

There is a spot in one of my flowerbeds where the soil is about 8″ to 10″ deep because there is a 10′ x 4′ rock just under the surface of the ground.  It works well to plant flowers with shallow root systems there.  So I usually seed it with ordinary Zinnas.

zinnaangelFinally, after seeding that area with Zinnas for four years, they are coming up voluntary.  Before this year I was gathering seeds and replanting.

The above picture shows why I have come to dislike garden cloth.  We used it because we thought it would keep the native Bermuda grass out of the flowerbed.  Wrong.  The grass and weeds just come up through the cloth.  Then they are even harder to pull out.

Plus, after time, the cloth gets uncovered by animals or heavy rains, even with mulch on top.

zinna3Back to Zinnas.  They’re pretty flowers that are very inexpensive.  I guess they’re ordinary because they are they are a common sight in older gardens.

goldlantanaAnother plant that is common in Texas is Lantana.  There is a native one that has yellow and orange flowers.  The one here is New Gold Lantana (Lantana x hydrida ‘New Gold”).

goldlantana2It grows low to the ground.  You can see the grass that has come up into the garden cloth is in the middle of the Lantana.  It is impossible to pull it all out.  Believe me.  I’ve tried.  Each spring I plan to get after it and keep ahead of the game.  Obviously, I have not suceeded.

goldlantana3The color is so bright on this plant.

goldlantana4All Lantanas are hardy and deer resistant.

goldlantana8Last evening I spotted something that is not ordinary, but unusual.  Several Hummingbird Moths (Macroglossum stellartarum) are feeding on the Gold Lantana.

Hummingbird Moths are also called Sphinx Moths or a Hawk Moths.  The wing span is about 5″.  It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the Moth is a hummingbird because they dart so quickly from flower to flower.  But there two antenna on top of their heads.

goldlantana7They are in flight the entire time they are feeding.  From this picture it is possible to see the pink color in the wings.  The back part of the body looks like a bee.  The proboscis seems even longer than a hummingbird beak.  While hummingbirds use their tongue to lap liquid, the Proboscis functions like a straw.

hummingbirdmothThis picture is from the internet and gives a clearer picture of a Hummingbird Moth.   To get this picture must require a special feature on a camera or a more masterful photographer than I am.

goldlantana5Seeing them made my day.

sedum2This ground cover Sedum is great to fill in gaps.  I’ve been using it at the edges on some of my lasagne gardens (see previous post) to help hold the soil in place.

Sedums are great plants to share with friends.  Just break a stem and stick it in dirt.  Water regularly until it roots.  Voila – a new plant.  My original plant came from one of my Mother’s.

I love having plants in my yard that remind me of people who them gave to me.

“Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”  Jim Rohn

A Little Green

This is a follow-up on my winter yard post.  It’s actually pretty sad, so I plan to come up with some ideas to improve it with more evergreens for next winter.

mountainlaurel Mountain Laurels  (Sophora secundiflora) or Mescal Beans are supposed to be evergreen and to grow successfully in rocky, clay soil without much water.  This one has struggled for about six years.  Some winters all its leaves have frozen.  In the summers its has a “worm” –  the Genista moth larvae which can decimate the foliage in a few days.   We try to remember to apply a diluted liquid of Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench in late spring or early summer that prevents these pests pretty well.  It is poured into the soil at the base of the plant.  One application lasts all year.

Before I selected this plant, I had read glowing reports about its hardiness and the beautiful purple hanging flower clusters that bloom in March and smell like grape Kool-aid.  So far, this Mountain Laurel has only bloomed one year, and those long anticipated flowers didn’t last long.  Of course, the dead grass around it in the photo makes it look even more pathetic.  My patience is growing thin with this shrub/small tree.

groundsucculentThis succulent ground cover, Blue Spruce Stonecrop (Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce) is great.  I got a few twigs from a family member.  It spreads nicely to about 15″ wide, but can be pulled up easily where it’s not wanted.  It has small yellow flowers on 5″ stems from spring until cold weather.

It turns a greyish color in the full sun, but is greener in semi-shade.  It is doesn’t die during the winter, but its color fades a little.

columbiThe Yellow Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) in this picture isn’t the deep green it will become when the temperature heats up and is more consistent.  It has gorgeous yellow flowers on long stems that last a long time.  Plus, there are tons of flowers, so there is a sea of yellow.

The only downside is that it can be too aggressive.  This plant is growing a long way from the original planting.

Yellow Columbines are native to the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico.  It flowers in spring, and prefers light to moderate shade and does well in Zones 3-8.  Mine get morning sun and full shade in the afternoons.

Evergreen suggestions?  I need shrubs that will survive in hot, dry conditions as well as  be able to endure freezes.  I’ll love to hear from you.

“I love going to the feed store and drinking coffee and talking about how much rain we need.”  Thomas Haden Church