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.”

Fresh Snow & Fresh Start

The last time snow fell here was in January, 2016.  Thursday’s snow was a delightful surprise.  On New Year’s Day we awoke to white as far as the eye could see.

Pictures taken from the front porch include snow outlined branches of the Pisache and Crepe Myrtle trees.

Every year this Red Oak holds on to its leaves longer any other tree we have.

A Chinkapin Oak and a pot of spiky Rosemary make a nice tableau.

To the right is a Privet bush and a Maple.

Now to the backyard.  One of characteristics of Live Oaks is how they spread out wide and the branches dip towards the ground.  Very lovely wearing white.

Cherry Laurel and to the left, climbing roses.

Snow frames a bare Texas Ash and the redwood pergola.

Yaupon Holly and to the right, a Red Oak.

Closer view of bench and Red Oak

1890’s conestoga wagon is a reminder of the harsh life of the settlers headed west.

Thanks to these deer for posing.

Even the native Junipers, aka cedars, look pretty.  The real problem with Junipers is how rapidly they multiple.

Snow covered landscape is so pretty and reminds me of a fresh start this new year.  Good riddance to 2020.  Looking forward to new opportunities and hopefully, an end to isolation.

“The future lies before you, like a field of fallen snow; be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”  unknown

Winter in Reality

Most years we don’t have any winter weather.  There’s a few days of freezing temperatures, but no precipitation to create a wintery scene.

So sometimes we help Mother Nature along.  This was a time when it was below freezing and we forgot to turn off the sprinkler system in the flower beds.

With the sprinkler head on the other side of this trellis, a different view shows up.

Same flower bed and icicles hang from a birdhouse.

Another time it rained during the night and it was so cold that the moisture froze on plants and branches.  Henry Duelberg Salvia soaked up the water making very thick ice on the small branches.

The ice makes for a dramatic beauty.

I guess people who live where winter is severe and common aren’t as enamored with these scenes as we are.

Ice on a Chinese Pistache looks lacy, especially with the green of a Live Oak framing it in the background.

Shrubs that I can’t identify at this point.  A different Live Oak provides the backdrop.

The Live Oak and shrubs taken from the back porch.

Evergreen Cherry Laurel sags under the weight of ice. In the background, the ridge looks like someone shook some powdered sugar over the trees.

Up close to the Cherry Laurel.

Branches from another Chinese Pistache draping in front of a metal pergola.

A Yaupon Holly.

Texas Kidney Bush (Eysenhardtia texana) gets its name from the fact that Indians and settlers used the beans in the pods as treatment for kidney problems.

A rose hip encased in ice.

Our winter, if we have one, usually occurs in January.  Ice is more common than snow, and it is hazardous to travel on icy roads.  Crews usually cover the highways with sand or tiny gravel.  But the backroads are not treated, so we usually stay home until it melts.

“If I’m walking on thin ice, I might as well dance my way across.”  Mercedes Lackey

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

Sweet Rain

This week we’re received almost 2 inches of rain.  Depending on where you live, that may not sound like much, but it’s a blessing to us.

Rain and cooler temperatures is a boon to everything.  More irises blooming.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) has shot up in height.  Some are over 4 ft. tall.

Each stem seems insignificant, but together, twirling in the wind, they are a lovely sight.

Last year, we planted a Greek Myrtle (Myrtus communis).  It appealed to me because it’s evergreen.  Immediately after planting, one side died.  So I was surprised to see all the flowers this year.

After planting it in the middle of a flower bed, I read that they should be planted alone.  Oh, well, we’ll see what happens in the future.

The flowers are striking and appear to be twinkling, like stars in the sky.

The other day, I gave this Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) tree a hair cut.  Each spring the lower branches dip down to the ground.  Sorry I didn’t get a picture of that.  Anyway, it becomes impossible to move around the tree.  Cutting off the low hanging branches doesn’t seem to hurt the tree at all.

The raised bed to the right of the tree is where we planted some small Pink Muhly grasses about two months ago.Kindly Light Dayilies (Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’) are a bright spot in the yard.

Old Fashioned Hollyhocks or Grandma’s Hollyhocks stand tall and proud.

Some are so tall that they look in danger of falling over.

Want a drought tolerant plant that spreads and has a wonderful aroma when touched, try Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).  They are native to the Himalayas, so it seems that they would not do well in our dry area.  Strangely, the Himalayas in India have massive amounts of precipitation, but in Tibet, arid conditions exist.

A worthy plant for our area.  Full sun needed.

On the edge of our porch sits this pot of Rose Moss that has been here for years.  Some or all of the moss returns in the spring.  This year, it needed to be supplemented with some new plants.  Love the yellow ones.

Hope your spring (almost summer) has received some rain.

“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.”  Booker T. Washington

Autumn

While our yearly rainfall averages 27 inches, rains in September, October, and November this year have totaled 19.93 inches.  So far the total for 2018 is 28.71, which isn’t that much over the average, but is enough to make us happy.

All this rain has resulted in rutted roads and high water levels on low water crossings.  But the blessings have far outweighed the inconveniences.

Copper Canyon Daisy, a native of the Sonoran desert of Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona, normally blooms in August, when the temperature is the hottest.  But even July and August were rainy, so it finally flowered in late September.

The smell of this stinky plant is not noticeable outside, but is overwhelming in confined spaces.  Pretty flowers at the tip of long stems gracefully wave in the wind.

The color on the ridge behind the house is stunning.  The green of the cedars, the local name for them, make the other colors pop.   These are actually Ash Juniper, post cedar, or blueberry juniper (Juniperus ashei),

Native to Northeastern Mexico and south central U.S, the largest coverage of Ash Juniper is in Texas.  They are a bane to property owners, who push them up with bulldozers because they are so prolific, cover grassland, and draw up water needed for other trees.

The positive aspects are erosion control and shade for wildlife and livestock.  Look closely at the middle lower part of the picture and you’ll see some of our wildlife – a deer.

Some other green is provided by our native Live Oaks.

Looking another direction shows how cedars grow in large expanses.  The birds eat the berries and distribute the seeds a la mother nature’s way.

In the yard, a Red Oak provides bright color.  Another Red Oak, which I neglected to get a picture of, was dark red.

A flock of Robins dropped into the yard this morning bobbing for worms.

This is like one of those puzzles sent on Facebook.  Can you find the robin in this Chinese Pistache tree?  Look to the middle of the picture on the left.

Always enjoy these visitors running to and fro and taking to the air at the least noise or movement.

Hope your autumn has been full of delightful surprises like our rains and beautiful sights.

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”  William Cullen Bryant

Autumn or Summer?

After weeks of cool, rainy weather, it’s back to hotter days and sunshine.  As we transition from summer to autumn, the plants and trees seem to be confused by the mixed message.

Some Hardy Hibiscus flowers appeared after rain.

And a few Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have flowered, although they look a little anemic.

Queen Butterflies continue to feed on the blossoms still on the Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  And behind that, purple flowers on Mexican Petunia still hang on.

But other plants, like this Firebush (Hamelia patens) are showing Autumn color.  It’s not winter hardy here, so it will go inside.

All the flower clusters on this Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea x moonshine) had died, but the other day, new flowers were glowing in the bright sun.

Trees are the biggest evidence of fall color.  This Red Oak has never looked this red before.  I know it takes a combination of rain and cool weather in certain amounts and a certain amount of time for leaves to change color.  I guess those colder rainy days did the trick.

This Mexican Flame vine is supposed to love the heat and bloom away during the summer.  However, it seems to prefer less heat than advertised and definitely enjoys extra water.

Petunias have always seemed fragile to me, but they have proved to be very hardy and resilient with filtered light.

Chinese Pistachio always has some orange color during the fall.  The leaves of the Eve’s Necklace to the left are turning yellow.

Several rose bushes, like this Double Delight are still producing gorgeous flowers.  This year some of the bushes have been stripped by a brown caterpillar.  I didn’t realize this until too late.  Most of those bushes are David Austin roses.  It’s all a mystery to me.

This small Shantung Maple tree struggled for many years to live during our extremely hot summers.  Each year it holds its leaves a little longer.  Most of the leaves from the upper branches are now on the ground.

Rock Rose (Pavonia Malvaceae) and Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) still have flowers.  Both of these plants are so hardy – perfect for our area.

Lovely Dianthus blooms a long time.  Of course, this one would have more flowers if I was diligent about deadheading.

Surprisingly, African Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa hasn’t suffered from some colder nights.  All of these tropical or semi-tropical plants will have to go inside soon.

Looking out into the fields, a bright spot of color is unexpected among all the dead brush.  This Sumac is from the Rhus family.  Some Sumacs are poisonous, but I don’t know if this variety is.

In another direction, some leaves are turning.  The full pond is a welcome gift from all the recent rains.

Don’t you love this time of the year!

“When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.”  Minnie Aumonier

Most Unusual Autumn

Rain, Rain, Rain!  So far, rainfall this month has been 11 inches.  To put that into prospective:  the average yearly rainfall here is 27 inches.  The total for 2017 was 19 inches.  So yikes, there’s flooding.  But it’s not as desperate here as it in some Texas towns, like Llano.

The temperatures have fallen in the last week to high 30’s.  Normally at this time, it’s still in the 90’s.  Some Halloweens, poor trick or treaters sweat under their costumes.  This year they may shiver.

I’m using pictures that were taken a week or so ago because we can’t get out of the house.  We also can’t get across the low water crossings because they are dangerously high with fast moving water.

The berries on the Pistachio trees precedes the leaves turning orange.  Pistachio gets bad press because they ‘re native to China.  But they do great here.  Love them.

In between some of the earlier rains, we walked out to one of the ponds.  This Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) caught my eye.  These bushes are in the same family as coffee bushes and are native to southern and eastern U. S.  This and all the other ponds are now flowing over their banks.

In spite of the crazy temperatures and abundant rain, many flowers are still blooming in the yard.  This Purple Oxalis (Oxalis regnelliihas) has survived many years in a pot, which is taken inside for the winter.  The common name of Shamrock comes from the shape of the leaves.

Cooler weather brings out the Reblooming Irises.  The Strawberry Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) will hang on until it freezes.  But, hooray, it reseeds.

Purple Hearts keep on blooming and reaching outwards until it freezes.

Purple asters make their appearance when it cools down. I think these are Aster oblongifolius.

A couple of years ago, I divided them and planted some to come on around the end of this bed.

Thornless Crown of Thorns is a beauty with blooms that last from spring until it freezes.  Since it is not cold hardy, it goes into the shed.  This one is much more human friendly since it doesn’t bring blood if you get near it.

Native and drought tolerant Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris Scaposa (DC.) Greene) are still going strong.  This bed drains well, so they’ve survived all the rain.

Large group of Gomphrena in the back draws the eye to their direction.

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensisis) is native throughout the Caribbean, so it’s more tropical than our area location but does well in a container.  I like the long stems with small flowers.  Beside it is a Kalanchoe and a Spider Plant with two Boston Ferns in the back.

We normally moan about the heat and lack of rain.  It’s definitely been an early wet fall.

“Everyone wants happiness.  Nobody wants pain.  But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”  unknown

Winter Came Back

Last week old man winter snuck back when I wasn’t paying attention.

Ice covering Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) tree.

Ice on Yellow Lead Ball bush and Crape Myrtle.

The good news is that this winter event brought rain – over five inches.  Hip, hip, hooray.

The beautiful Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) looked really sad.

The weight of the ice on the branches was a concern.  But in a couple of days, it was melting, and the tree perked back up.

The Live Oak, too, was frosted with ice.

Another Chinese Pistache with ice.

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) with ice.  Okay, you get the picture.

Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) is a native flowering small tree.  The rebar post was put there when it was small to mark the spot to avoid with the mower.  Guess it’s time to remove it.

Ice caked around a red rose hip on a climbing rose.

The hills were covered with ice, and it wasn’t fit for man nor beast to be out.  A paraphrase of a W. C. Fields quote.

From inside where it was warm and cozy, it looked dreamy.  And I’m so thankful for the rain.

“Sometimes my greatest accomplishment is just keeping my mouth shut.”  Zane Baker

A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown