Hibiscus and Copy Cats

Tropical Hibiscus are so exotic.  But there are some other types of flowers that have the same features of a true hibiscus.

The flower petals of a Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are very thin, almost tissue paper thin.  The pistil is extremely tall.  The red tip of this pistil is the stigma, or female part.   The tiny yellow dots just under it are stamens, the male part of the flower, where the pollen is located.

All Hibiscus and look a-likes have five flower petals.  The flower also has a deeper color in the center of the petals.  This draws pollinators into the flower so they will drop pollen into the ovary to create seeds.

Boy.  I bet you didn’t expect a science lesson.  But this helps us compare parts of copy cat flowers.

This is a Hardy Hibiscus with the same characteristics.  All Hardy Hibiscus are in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

One of the hardiest bushes for our area is Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).  It is native to China, but has adapted to a drier, hotter climate.

The flowers have an uncanny resemblance to hisbiscus.  But these bushes are woody and can reach a height of 10 feet.

This is another Rose of Sharon.  The difference in flower petal color can only be accounted for by the slight variations in the soil.

I really like the deep red of this Hardy Hibisicus.  This bush came from seeds from a friend years ago.  It disappeared long ago.  Not sure why.

This Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) has purple foliage.  Love the streaks of color in the petals.

Texas Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a hardy native that has small flowers with a hibiscus look.  It’s a woody perennial that blooms profusely. 

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has an unusual look with petals separated by a different color.  These are not unique to Texas, and in fact, are not even native, but we grabbed that name.

Another Rose Mallow.  The petals are so thin that they are easily torn by wind.

This view emphases the crinkles in the petals.

This was my most favorite tropical Hibiscus that I’ve ever had.  It grew in a pot for about seven years before it became root bound. Since all tender plants have to be taken inside for the winter, it couldn’t be transplanted into the ground.

Still love its orangey, peachy color.

Tropical hibiscus needs filtered light, not direct sunlight.  But Hardy Hibiscus, Rock Rose, Texas Star Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, and Rose Mallows need full sun.  It seems that the hotter, the better for them.

Aren’t the uniqueness of different flowers just amazing.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”  Zen Shin

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 Repeats

With so many flowers continuing to bloom, this autumn has been like a second spring.  As crazy as it sounds, cool weather in autumn is not the norm here.  It’s been a special treat this year.

The purchase of two small plants in 4″ pots made about 10 years ago has turned out to be one of my best buys.  Bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphrena (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) is always a welcome sight.  Since it’s an annual that reseeds freely, large groups of it show up each spring.

A Hardy Hibiscus that was bought about 10 years ago at a garden club plant sale has proved to be a boon.  Anything with the word “hardy” (meaning cold hardy for our area) in its name can withstand our dry and hot summer, as well as our sometimes extreme cold periods.

This Oxalis or Shamrock plant has been in this same pot for about eight years.  By the end of summer, the leaves are bedraggled, but the flowers look fresh.

This Coral Honeysuckle bush (Lonicera sempervirens L.) is only three years old.   It doesn’t look as well as it did in the spring, but there are flowers for the pollinators.  Another great performer.

The plant everyone loves to complain about is Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex).  It’s an aggressive spreader.  But if there’s room for it, it is hardy to the extreme and will become an old standby .  This grouping started out as one single cutting that I took twenty years ago.

Personally, I love the color of the flowers.  They are not shy about blooming.  So it has its pluses.  Mexican Petunias are native to Mexico and further south.

“Calories are tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.”  unknown

Queen for a Day

Okay, I’m showing my age, but does anyone remember hearing about the old TV show “Queen for a Day”?  It started in the late 1940’s as a radio show and became a popular daytime TV show in in the 50’s and early 60’s.

My mother and thousands of other ladies watched as women told sob stories to be chosen as queen and receive gifts like refrigerators.  The winner was crowned, draped with a red velvet robe and placed on a throne.  She reigned for a day.

In the garden, daylilies like “Elegant Candy” (Hemerocallis ‘Elegant Candy’) reign for a day in all their splendor.  In fact, the word Hemerocallis comes from two Greek words meaning beauty and day.

Many daylilies, like this “Early Snow” grow low to the ground with the flower raised on a stem about a foot tall.

The spider shape of “Frans Hals” grows on a taller stem.  Probably named after an artist during the Dutch Golden Age with most of the best work done during the 1600’s.  Frans Hals painted mostly portraits or groups of people.

The deep color of the center of “Inwood” grabs attention.

Hardy Hibiscus in the mallow family is truly stunning.  The tissue-papery flowers may last more than a day.  I haven’t determined that.

These hibiscus are winter hardy and relatively drought tolerant with huge flowers – 8″ across.  The branches do tend to flop, so stakes are necessary.  Sorry I don’t remember the color.

The dark color of “Passion for Red”  makes it a true beauty.

Rose Mallow ‘Luna Pink Swirl’ (Hibiscus moscheutos) is cold hardy to zone 5.  It’s a keeper and a beauty.  The flowers last one day with more buds waiting to open.

Another queen for a day (or night) is Moon Flower (Datura wrightii).  It’s a Texas native that needs shade with filtered light.

The blue flowers are Black and Blue Sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’) in a pot in front of the Moon Flower.  This plant also needs semi-shade:  at least in the hot Texas sun.

“Scottish Fantasy”

“Viva la Vida” is double cross lily.  An Asiatic hybrid was crossed with a fragrant Oriental and then crossed back with another Asiatic lily.  This one doesn’t truly apply for queen for a day since its blooms last a few days.

Viva la Vida is Spanish for “Live that Life”.  There’s also a song by that name.

The last painting by Frida Kahlo in 1954 was named Viva la Vida.

I’m a big fan of bulbs, corm, and tubers like daylilies, irises, and crinums.  They’re a great investment that multiples over time.

“We might think that we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”  Jenny Uglow

Summertime

“Summertime and the living is easy.”  I guess that’s true in a certain sense.  If possible, people do tend to get inside during the midday hours.  As a child, there was no air conditioning.  So we were expected to lay down for a nap during the hottest hours.  However, that luxury isn’t available for the ranchers and others who have to be outside all day here.

For the gardeners, summer means that most work has to be done before noon and much more watering is needed.  If you have a lot of plants in containers, it means lots of hand watering.

Fortunately, there are plants that love the sunshine and heat.  This is a hardy Hibsicus that I got at a club plant sale years ago.  It a generous re-seeder.  The flowers are about 4 inches wide.

This year I was able to locate a hardy Hibiscus with larger flowers.  These are 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  I was looking for the ones with dinner plate size flowers but couldn’t find them in red.

These aren’t true red but close.  So far, they’ve bloomed profusely.

Datura or Moon flowers perform well in the heat as long as they aren’t in direct sun.  They open at night and last until just after noon.

Everyone is being encouraged to plant milkweed to help Monarchs survive.  The most common one here is Antelopehorns (Asclepias asperula), which is a native and grows in our fields.  However, I wanted one that is prettier in the yard.  Thankfully this one, Texas Milkweed (Asclepias texana), survived the winter in a pot.

Although Kolache is not winter hardy, it’s a go-to plant for containers in mostly shady areas.  Kolaches grow large and are easy to propagate.  Just break off a stem and stick it into potting soil.  Keep the soil moist, not wet, until it produces roots and begins to grow.  They’re great pass-along plants.

Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis) are wispy, small accent trees.  The orchid-like flowers are lovely.

The flower colors range from light pink to a darker pink or lavender.

Always a trustworthy perennial summer bloomer, Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) is aggressive, so be prepared with space for it to spread.  A low to the ground variety does not spread, so it’s an option.

In this picture a flower stalk from Red Yucca is draping over the petunias.Dainty flowers that last a day.  What is that white bug?  Only noticed it when the picture was enlarged.

If your summer months are extra hot, hope you can enjoy some cheerful flowers and some cool air conditioning.

“People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”  Dumbledore (Harry Potter book)

Hibiscus and Lookalikes

Exotic Hibiscus flowers conjure up the romantic South Pacific islands.

Tropical Hibiscus has a special beauty.  The tall pistil is one of its characteristics.

However, they can be a pain to grow in hot, dry central Texas.  This one has been in a pot for years and is probably very root bound.  But, as long as it lives, it will be taken into a heated shed during the winter.  So, I guess it’s worth the trouble.

This is the same plant and is looking a little ragged in this especially dry summer.

Luckily, there are plants with that look that do extremely well here.  They endure the hot summers and some cold times in the winter.  Rose of Sharon or Althea shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus) become very large and are covered with these exquisite flowers.

Bees love them.

Their flower colors range from white to pink to deep lavender.

The bright red center of these flowers are striking.

Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) has small hibiscus like flowers.  They grow in dry rocky soils.  The flowers last one day, but with a little water, there will be more the next day.

Hardy Hibiscus is exactly what its name says.  It is a perennial that is tough and has the beauty of a delicate tropical flower.

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has a more unique look with its two color petals and long finger leaves.  But it still has that tall pistil.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) provide the look of hibiscus, with a shorter pistil.  They stack up on a central stalk that branches out.

All of these plants come from the Mallow (Malvaceae) family.  There are 4225 known species.  These are very diverse because included with all these lovely flowers are okra, cotton, and cacao.  Only a botanist could understand the complications of plant orders.

But what I see is that all the flowers in this blog have tall pistils, where the male and female parts provide reproduction.  Also, the flower petals mostly have the same form.

Plus, all add beauty to gardens.  When the temperature is stagnant in the triple digits, hardy plants are a blessing.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year.” –Thomas Cooper

Cafe at the Ridge Garden Vignettes

Our Master Gardeners Club took a day trip last week to the Kerrville area.  Our first stop was Café at the Ridge outside of town.  Originally it was called Roadkill Cafe.  About 12 years ago a new owner renovated it and put in a bakery, a garden, a nursery, and a gift shop.

Immediately I knew I would love this place.

Usually, whiskey barrels are cut in half for a flower pot.  This arrangement of three different ways to use the barrels make them much more unique.

Behind the railing is the porch area for the cafe.  We ate a delicious lunch there.

The wood is mesquite, which is expensive because it takes a long time for trunks to get large.

The pot on the left contains a Hardy Hibiscus.  Behind that is Dusty Miller with its lacy gray leaves.  On the right are some Daylilies and mystery yellow flowers.

This picture is to show the use of a broken pot.  In the center, surrounded by Begonias is a large pot that has parts of the pot stuck in the remaining large section.  There is also a bright blue pot placed inside.

Even though I like yard art, I don’t care for the hanging sunflower circles.

Another reconstructed clay pot contains plants and a fairy garden.

Unusual.

Lots of brightly colored pots for sale.

The theme of the garden seemed to be:  use as many unique items as flower pots as possible.  Here, old chest drawers were attached to legs and hold Foxtail Fern, Woodland Fern, and Begonias.  Not sure about the dark leafed plant.

A concrete basket contains Dusty Miller, Pentas, and maybe Penstemon.

A seesaw for adults

I’m always on the look out for old metal cars.  So far, no luck or they are too costly.

The round plaque would be nicer if it were more legible.

I actually have an old enamel pot that I need to drill holes in so it can be a planter.

The plant in the large pot looks like a Mexican Flame Vine (Pseudogynosux chenpodiodes) and the purple leafed one behind it is Princess Caroline Napier Grass, which is a Texas Super Star plant.

Because the Mexican Flame Vine is zone 9 -10, I have to move it into the shed for winter.  I bought it at a garden club sale in Waco but didn’t realize it was too tropical for here.  But it is beautiful.

Even old tires can become planters.  Not sure how they folded the tire back after cutting the zigzags.

A word about yard art.  This place has an overabundance of it.  But they are selling plants, pots, yard art, and suggesting ways to use plants.

The “tea and brie” set look down their noses at yard art.  But it can be used effectively.  First, one should see and enjoy the plants.  Then, wandering through the garden, one should encounter pleasant surprises that makes one smile, such as yard art.

In the city, that can be more challenging because of yard space, and because  some community rules prevent it.  But enjoy it when you can.

Lamb’s Ear in front.  The bedstead in the back has been turned into a plant protector.  In the center is a wire grid tepee that can be covered with plastic to shade plants from the sun.

Note the posts for this porch – cages filled with chunks of glass.

This picture was taken to show the Bottle Tree.  Haven’t seen one with that shaped frame.

I was enamored with this place, so lots of pictures.  Next post will continue with more from this nursery.

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Antique Rose Emporium

The first week-end in November we attended the 29th annual Fall Festival at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas.

antique-roseThe first day was overcast and misty, so pictures are a little dark.

There are several entrances to this 10 acre nursery.  Yes, it is a nursery, but to me it’s a destination worth visiting.

antique-rose1Although the emphasis is on antique roses, there are other plants in the landscape and for sale.

These Cigar Plants (Cuphea ignea) or Firecracker Plants or really tall.  Independence is about the same latitude as Austin and therefore, have pretty warm winters.

antique-rose2The meetings were held in this chapel.  The speakers were great, but unfortunately, the acoustics were not good.

antique-rose4The gardeners are very creative at setting up vignettes that make people smile as they walk through the landscape.

antique-rose5

antique-rose6There are many of these unusual trellises (I don’t know what else to call them) throughout the gardens.  The heavy rebar makes them very sturdy, so they are great for vigorous climbing roses, like Lady Banks.

antique-rose7A cute little green house for those who don’t have much room on their property.

antique-rose8Of course, it is all about roses.  This looks like Belinda’s Dream.  Antique Rose Emporium was started by a couple of guys who were involved in a group called Rose Rustlers.  They visited cemeteries and other places searching for antique roses that they could take cuttings from and then propagate them.  All of the roses here are propagated in fields owned by the nursery.

antique-rose9I had never seen Salvia Greggii White Autumn Sage before.  They have a more rounded bush shape and were very striking.  The nursery did not have any in stock.

antique-roseaA hardy Hibiscus still blooming.

antique-rosebAlthough I’m not big fan of fairy gardens, I liked this one.

antique-rosecBut technically, this is a gnome garden.  I liked the way they have tiny flowers planted to match the size of the houses.

antique-rosedLooked cute, even with some weeds.

antique-rosee

antique-rosef

antique-rosegA small Persimmon tree with fruit.

antique-rosehI wish I could remember the names of these yellow flowers on tall stems.  Anyone?

antique-rosejSeveral places were set up for weddings.  I guess the guest list would have to be small for this spot.

antique-rosekArches lead up to a gazebo that could be used for a wedding ceremony.

antique-roselBehind the gazebo are rose bushes as well as climbing roses and other plants.

There will be two more posts about the Antique Rose Emporium.  I could gladly spend days there.

“Definition of maturity:  to be able to stick with 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

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San Antonio Gardens, Part II

The hot summers and mild winters of San Antonio make it possible to grow tropical plants there.

sanaI fell in love with the Potterweeds (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).  This is a red one.  It is supposed to be drought tolerant and grow like a weed.

sana1While standing in front of this bush for several minutes, I saw several different kinds of butterflies.  I think the one on the left is a Gulf Fritillary and the one on the right, a Common Mestra

sana3This Angelonia or Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) is an annual with upright flower spikes that resemble miniature snapdragons.

Only Angelonia from the Serena series can be grown from seed.

sana4Don’t recognize this plant.

sana5Bat-faced Cuphea (Cuphea llavea) gets it name from the dark area on the tip of the flower.  It takes a good imagination to see a bat face there.sanaccI tried to get a picture that would show the face, but I don’t see it.

They are native to Mexico and Central America and are only perennials in zone 10 and higher.sana6In this part of the garden, there are four square beds that form a large square with walkways in between.  Each square has the large tropical plant that probably stands 8 or 9 feet tall with shorter flowering bushes surrounding it.  The tall plants look like giant cannas, but they are probably something more exotic.  And none of them had flowers.

sanai

sanah

sana7This Blue Potterweed has a Praying Mantis posing for a picture.

sana8Tall trees provide nice shady nooks.  The lady in red is one of several volunteer Master Gardeners working in the gardens that morning.

sana9Our group is observing huge Crape Myrtles and listening to the extension agent provide information.

sanajEasy to recognize Lantana is a good old reliable in Texas.  This particular one might be ‘Dallas Red’.

The unusual butterfly is an Orange Skipperling.

sanajjHardy Hibiscus do well in our area, also.

sanajjjWish I knew the name – no label.  In the Shrimp Plant family?

sanak

sanakkkYellow Jabobinia or Brazilian Plume (Justicia aurea) grows in light to full shade in zones 8b and higher.

sanalFrustrating when botanical gardens don’t have everything labeled.

sanallVariegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) is an annual except in zone 11 and further south.

sanalllIt is a non-bloomer that loves heat and the sun.

sanamLike the light play through the Elephant Ears, which are native to Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

sanammsanammmThe horticulturist at this botanical gardens must also love Potterweed, since they use it so much.  Here it is with Potato Vine.

A visit to a lush tropical garden is a treat.  Even though it doesn’t translate into useful information for my garden, it’s fun to see what other parts of the world grow.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

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.

Zilker2

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.

Zilkerd

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.

Zilkeri

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.

Zilkerl

ZilkermA Walking Stick on a lamplight globe.

ZilkernI think this is Mexican Heather.

ZilkeroUnknown.

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