Unrelenting Heat

It’s still hot.  It’s still dry.  It’s still hot.  It’s still dry.  The summer merry-go-round keeps circling around and around.

So how could any plant survive this?

First of all, the plants in the yard have received more watering than usual.

Some plants actually live and bloom better in the heat, like this Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata).  The foliage is green most of the year.  But it’s flowering performance with its strong sweet smell comes in the hottest part of summer – mid August into September.

One warning:  prune it back to the ground by the beginning of spring, or it will be so heavy, it will tumble down and bring the trellis with it.  The optimum time is early winter.

The flowers disappeared from Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) when the heat cranked up, but the foliage is pretty and unique all by itself.  The ruffled leaves are soft to the touch.

This lovely plant is new to me this year.  Although I can’t find the tag, I think it is Rose Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena Globosa).  The leaves are wider than other gomphrenas, and it grows in a rounded mound.

Strawberry Field Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana) are individual plants with a bright red ball at the top of each stem.  They reseed so freely that just a few can guarantee many flowers for years to come.

Another successful bush for this heat is Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii).

Bees and other pollinators flock to it.

Caryopteris or Bluemist shrub (Cayopteris x clandonensis) shines in the heat.  The main concern is more about its cold hardiness.  But it has survived some low temperatures.

Celosia is a large plant family that includes several annuals, such Cockscomb.  This one is Flamingo Feather (Celosia spicata).  All celosias do well in the heat.  The trick is to save their seeds.  I’m hoping to do that with this plant.

A favorite in Texas is Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  There’s no question that it’s a stunner.  But the problem is that it isn’t cold hardy here.  So it has to be brought inside for the winter.  That’s possible for a few years before it gets too large.
So I’ll just enjoy it for now.

Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) is listed as cold hardy for here in Zone 8.  But I have lost one already, so for right now it is carried to a protected area each winter.

A plant that should not be grown here is Firebush (Hamelia patens).  I resisted getting one as long as I could.   It does very well two zones warmer than here.  For now, it’s in a pot.

Sometimes, I think my love of plants is madness.

Of course, the very best plants for any region are the native ones.  If they grow in a field with no supplemental water, that is a dead give away that they’re perfect for the area.  Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) forms large colonies in the dry fields.

Sometimes a few will come up in the yard, so I let them grow.  Obviously, this Swallowtail butterfly appreciates it.

 “To find some who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, this is the ultimate happiness.”  Robert Brault 

Community Garden

The pictures in this post were taken at a Community Garden in the small town of Menard.  There are raised beds that can be rented for growing vegetables.  The garden is also used to teach Jr. Master Gardeners. They have a separate section with raised beds for them.

A large section of the garden contains different bushes, flowers, and vines.  This is a type of Salvia.

The flowers on Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) have a velvet look and feel.  The problem is that it needs warmer winters.  So, alas, it freezes back when I try to grow it.  But it is a gorgeous plant.

Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana) also needs more tropical growing conditions.

The unique flowers have the paper-thin look of Bougainvillas.  The actual flower is the white part.

Zinnas are an economical way to bring color into the garden.  So easy to grow.

A must for Texas gardens:  Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii.).  Queen Butterflies flock to it.

Morning Glory Tree (Ipomoea carnea) loves our heat but not the freezing winter times in my area.

The rains have made it difficult to keep up with weeding.  Since this garden is manned by volunteers, it’s easy to see how it’s possible to be crowded with plants growing unchecked.

One couple teaches the Jr. Master Gardeners and takes care of this garden.  They recruit volunteers whenever possible.  What a heart for their community.

Another tropical plant is Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  Their bright color certainly steals the scene and makes us all drool for one.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned that no matter how much you want some plants, if they won’t survive the winter, forget them.

Just look at that flower that screams the Caribbean Islands.

Now back to a solid performer.

Esperanzass (Tecoma Stans) are coveted for their beautiful yellow tubular flowers.  Mine always freeze.  Some people say they have better luck than I do.

And what would a Texas garden be without a pepper plant.  Not sure which one this is.

Good old Zinnas grow wherever there is a little bit of soil.

Anyone with a garden anywhere knows that plant choices are important.  Sometimes we cannot plant something we really like.

“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  John F. Kennedy

San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Last week I was in San Antonio for a two day plant seminar.  On the third day we had a tour of the Botanical Gardens.

sagardens014The gardens opened in 1980, so the trees are mature and the garden is well established.  It has an old world feel to it.

sagardens1This is a Barbados Cherry bush (malpighia emarginata) that has  matured.  Compare it to the puny little one I have in a pot.

sagardens3And there are the red berries I was expecting to see.

sagardens2Little Ruby Alternanthera (Alternanthere ‘Little Ruby’) is a smaller, more compact version of the traditional Joseph’s Coat.  It is perennial in warmer areas and can be grown in full sun or light shade.

sagardens4Bamboo Muhly in the back is cold tolerant to zone 8.  With airy, light frothy branches, it is pretty in the wind.

sagardens8Bamboo Muhly works well next to drought tolerant plants.

sagardens5Everyone’s  favorite:  Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) needs a more tropical climate than we have here.  Since San Antonio is further south,  many tropical plants can survive there.

Caesalphinia pulcherrima means very pretty.  And it is that.

sagardens6Can a plant be more cheerful than this one?  The colors are so bright that it’s visible from a distance.

sagardenscA large group of plants in different size pots made a bold statement.  While I didn’t recognize many of the tropical ones, at the bottom, the light green is a annual potato vine.




sagardensdThe green plant in the center with small red flowers on long stems is Red Potterweed or Pink Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis).

sagardensbWith zone envy, I had to remind myself over and over that I am happy with the plants that I can grow.



sagardensRight off the bat, this bush grabbed my attention.  I learned that it is a Blue Potterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) from South Florida.

sagardens7The thickness of this Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) convinced me that I should cut mine back in the spring and trim it throughout the growing season so it will branch out more.

sagardensekkYellow Jacobinia (Justicia aurea) grows in full shade to light shade and is not cold hardy below zone 8.

sagardensfA really cute little gardener statute.

sagardensgWith a huge tropical plant in the center, this display will lead us further into the tropics.

The plant in the foreground might be Black and Blue Salvia.  Not sure about the yellow flowers id.

The next post will be in the lush part of the gardens.

“This is maturity:  to be able to stick to a job until it’s finished; to do one’s duty without being supervised; to be able to carry money without spending it; and to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”  unknown

Austin’s Zilker

In all the many times we’ve visited Austin, we had never been to Zilker Botanical Gardens.  So in June, the morning after we attended a Gilbert and Sullivan production, we walked through the gardens.

Zilker3Near the entrance from the parking lot is an above ground pond for water plants.

ZilkerI love water lilies but don’t want to bother with the installation, maintenance, and problems with animals that a water feature might involve.

Zilker4Looks like a dill plant, but in water?

Zilker1Very soothing to the soul.


Zilker5Another favorite – Hydrangeas –  cannot be grown here.  Rocky clay soil and extreme dry heat just don’t cut it.

Zilker6Queen of the Nile (Agapanthus) don’t make it through our winters.  Really lovely, though.

Zilker7This might be another variety of Queen of the Nile.

Zilker8Plumbagos (Plumbago auriculate) are from South Africa and do very well here in the summer but must go into a green house for the winter.

Zilker9Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis), also know as Confederate Rose or Mallow Rose, is a super perennial in our area and evergreen further south.

ZilkeraAlthough Austin is only 125 miles south of us, the weather is much more tropical.  So the plants that grow there don’t have to contend with cold weather, most of the time.

Zilkerb A large section of the park has tropical plants and natives to the area growing in a naturalistic style.

ZilkercSome areas seem like they are in the country rather than the city.


ZilkereTexas Pink Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Texas Pink’)

ZilkerfMexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

ZilkergI like the look of tropical foliage plants but since they are annuals here, I don’t buy them.

ZilkerhPride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) thrives in Austin but doesn’t survive winter here.  So we grow Mexican Bird of Paradise, which has a similar look but not the bright color of the flowers.


ZilkerjLove the bright red of what I think is a Firecracker Plant or Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea).

ZilkerkFirecracker Plant or Fountain Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) grows in zone 9 or above.  It’s a nice filler plant.


ZilkermA Walking Stick on a lamplight globe.

ZilkernI think this is Mexican Heather.


ZilkerpThese gardens looked very Austin, but I personally prefer that botanical gardens be more formal since my own gardens are not.

One note:  there was a large rose garden area, but the bushes were in sad shape and didn’t have many blooms.  I did not think that the roserosette virus had reached Austin yet.  It started in Oklahoma and is in most of North Texas now and is breaking rose lovers hearts.  So far, we have been spared.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Heritage Farms

The last week in October the Evant Garden Club traveled on a day trip to the Heritage Farms in Waco.  They graciously invited me to tag along.

The Farms are comprised of a group of families with a religious affiliation and a common life philosophy.  They are vague about their beliefs except that family is a core value.

cafeThe man on the porch of the cafe was our tour guide.  He looked to be in his thirties and has seven children.

Most of the land is owned commonly.  The children are all home schooled.  The women and girls wear loose plain dresses.  The men and boys wear jeans and commercially made shirts.  Much of the information about the community comes from a short video shown to visitors.

candleThis lovely Candle Bush (Senna alata), also known as a Candelabra Bush, Empress Candle Plant, Ringworm Tree, or Candletree is a medicinal tree.  It is native to Mexico but can grow tall in the tropics.

heritagefarmA bed of assorted blooms including impatiens and asters.

heritagefarm3The families of the Farm believe in living off the land and creating what they need.  This pottery demonstration shows one of their skills.  Many items that are produced are sold in the gift shop.

heritagefarmbMy first impression was how neat and manicured the whole place is.  Of course, we only saw the public areas, but the homes and farm lands are probably just as immaculate.

heritagefarm5The flowerbeds were impressive.

heritagefarm7The buildings have an old world quaintness.

heritagefarm4The wood working demonstration stressed the art of handmade furniture using dovetailing rather than nails.

All the different shops provide classes for the public.

heritagefarm8So neat and trim.

heritagefarmaMexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) – I definitely want one of these.

heritagefarmcI couldn’t figure out this building, but it looks like a storage place.

gThe smithy shoes the horses and makes other needed iron products.  They also do commissioned jobs.

Community barn raisings are another source of income.  They have bought old barns in the northeastern US and reconstructed them replacing damaged parts with authentic replications.  Some projects are done for their property and some for customers.

heritagefarm9We also visited the shop where spinning, weaving and sewing is done.  My pictures didn’t turn out, but the information given was fascinating.  I learned a lot, especially about flax.

heritagefarmdThe grain mill is powered by water, show above, and electricity.

heritagefarmeThis is inside the mill.  They sell bags of mixes for breads, muffins, etc.

heritagefarmfPride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) stands out against a wall.

heritagefarm2Back to the cafe where there is another Candle Bush.  We ate lunch there.  With everything made from scratch, it’s a long, leisurely lunch time.  They were busy, even on a Tuesday, with many large groups touring.

A great day of enjoying a calm, serene atmosphere and learning about crafts not practiced by many today.

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”  John F. Kennedy

Day Trip

Remember when an afternoon drive in the country was a major form of entertainment?  Since we live in the country, we now drive to the city for a change of pace.  Recently, we spent a day in Waco.  Now when we lived in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, we didn’t even consider Waco a city.  But it has grown and our definition of city has changed.

eastterracehouseHistoric Waco Foundation has four homes open to the public on a staggered monthly schedule during the year.  We visited the East Terrace home of industrialist J. W. Mann.  It was built in 1872 with additions in 1880 and 1884.  It is named for the terraces from the house down to the Brazos River in front of the house.

The house is quite large and was known for the first indoor bathroom in the community and for miles away.

eastterracehouse2The Mann family had the house built and were the only ones to ever occupy it.  After their deaths, the house fell into disrepair.  The city managed the renovation after it was deeded to them.  Much of the original furniture was still in homes in the surrounding area.  People donated it back to the Foundation.

A personal guided tour by a knowledgeable docent gave information about the history and life during that time period.

The Dr. Pepper museum in downtown Waco was the next stop.  The displays provide details about the discovery and early marketing of products.  An exhibit of large photographs depicts the devastation of the 1953 tornado in downtown Waco.  This museum, too, is worth a visit.

carleenbright.4jpgThe Carleen Bright Arboretum in the suburb of Woodway is a quiet, small garden in a neighborhood setting.  Since we were the only ones wandering around, it was very quiet.

carleenbright.2jpgAt the perimeter of the garden area was a nature trail.carleenbright.3jpgThe trail meandered around to a small creek.  A one point, there was a steep drop off.

carleenbright.7jpgThe arboretum area itself is small – less than six acres.  It all seems like a work in progress.  There is a new large meeting hall for weddings and other events.

carleenbright.6jpgcarleenbright.5jpgThere was not a large variety of plants.  There were several large plantings of Artemisia, which does well in the summer heat if it doesn’t get too much direct sunlight.carleenbright.8jpgThe Dinner Plate Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) were lovely.

carleenbright.9jpgcarleenbright.10jpgSeveral bushes of different colors of Hibiscus were planted side by side.

carleenbright.12jpgcarleenbright.11jpgPride of Barbados, the national flower of the island of Barbados, has become a very popular plant in Texas.  Both locations have the summer heat and sun.  However, the parts of Texas that have that hot summer can also have cold winters.  So, often, the Pride of Barbados dies when it freezes.

carleenbright.13jpgSurprisingly, some Daylilies were still blooming.

carleenbrightColeen Bright Arboretum was a nice peaceful stop.

Our final stop of the day was the Waco Mammoth Site.  This is a major find of Columbian Mammoths, named for Christopher C. in the US.  Since the discovery of the first bone in 1978, it has taken many years for further excavation and the construction of a museum site.  There are still many areas that require more digging.

Inside a large display building is the dig site.  Bones in situ provide visitors with a realistic view of the find.  The Columbian Mammoths were about two feet taller than the Wooly Mammoths.  The life size painting on a wall gives perspective to the unearthed bones.               www.wacomammoth.com

All in all, a very nice getaway day.

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”  John Burroughs