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

Hope for Gardeners

The old expression “Hope springs eternal” definitely defines gardeners’ attitudes.  Now as it warms up and we see a little green outside, our hope for a great spring ratchets up. (I mean ‘ratchets up’ from the old timey meaning, not the hip-hop one.)

Of course, the weeds are alive and well, but some other plants are, too.

Every year I plan to take this Texas Scarlett Quince  (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’) out.  Then it flowers for a short time, so it stays to see another day.

Because it is the first thing to bloom, it adds some much needed color.  This year its flowers were delayed due to Uri.  When did weathermen start naming winter storms?

Some Daffodils already had foliage before the storm, so those got zapped and probably won’t bloom this year.

Just appreciate those brave little souls who are flowering.

Only one daffodil in this bed made it.

Native Yarrow (Achillea millefolum) is amazing.  Millifoium means a thousand leaves.  It’s a native evergreen and is as tough as nails.  Plus, it spreads.  The flowers are white clusters on a stem above the foliage.

I wondered if the Amaryllis bulbs would survive.  Here they are standing tall.  The other little plants are either Gulf Coast Penstemon or Gomphrena.  Both are in this bed.

Just planted these Dwarf Candytufts (Iberis sempervines).  After the horrible freeze, cold hardiness is more important than ever.  The label says these are cold hardy down to minus 20.  Wow.

What a bright spot in the early spring garden.  I’ll be watching to see how it performs.

Hope you are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel where you live.  Spring, warm days, sunshine, and flowers will come.

“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”  Robert H. Schuller

Gray with a Hint of Silver

One landscaping trend is to use very few colors.  Some people prefer a very muted palette and consider it calming.  My preference is for lots of color.  But I do like some neutral plants in the mix.

Prairie Sage is a perennial that doesn’t bloom.

The color is an even gray.  The branches are a little brittle but don’t break in the wind.

But even when I used grays, I like to have a little punch near it.

Dusty Miller is an old faithful that has been used for years by our ancestors.

The softness of the foliage makes it a very touchable plant.  It needs full sun but can take some shade part of the day.  Here in Zone 8 it is a perennial, but in lower zones the winter cold kills it.

This Artemisia Powis Castle (Artemisia arborescens ‘Powis Castle’) has been in this container for years.  They tend to be evergreen.

As soft as soft can be and a slight soothing scent.

Planted in the ground, Artemisia just goes crazy.  It has pretty much taken over this flower.  I have to keep trimming it back because part of the bed is planted with roses and other flowering plants.  Growing low to the ground, the branches root and spread.

Texas Purple Sage or  “cenizo” (Leucophyllum frutescens)  is very popular in Central Texas.  It is beautiful when purple blooms appear.  However, that’s only after a rain, which happens seldom here.  It can get thin without enough water.

It is not a sage or a salvia, but is in the figwort family.  A nature to Texas and northern Mexico, it is drought tolerant.  Not my favorite, but somehow I feel obligated to have this native.

Of course, there are other choices for gray in the yard, such as Globe Mallow and Gray Santolina.  Aren’t you glad you get to pick the colors or lack of for your own space?

“Gray hair is a blessing.  Ask any bald man.”  unknown

What’s Blooming and Growing in Cool Weather

Cool weather continues.  In fact, one day last week there was frost on the ground.  The world has gone wonky.

Katy Road Roses covering a six foot bush.  This rose was introduced in 1977 and was known in Texas as Katy Road because it was “found” on Katy Road in Houston.  It was actually developed by Dr. Griffith Buck at Iowa State University to withstand the long, cold winters of the Midwest.  He named it Carefree Beauty.

Because this rose also does so well in the hot, dry summers of Texas, it was named the 2006 “Earth-Kind® Rose of the Year” by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.  The bush has several flushes of rich pink blooms from spring until frost.  Each flower produces a large orange rose hip.

So call it Katy Road or Carefree Beauty, it’s a great rose for the garden.

To the right side of the rose bush are Ox-Eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare).  They can be aggressive but are so pretty, I think they’re worth it.

Maggie is an old Bourbon rose that blooms profusely.  It was “found” in Louidiana by Dr. William Welch of A&M and brought to Texas.  It’s a winner.

Another Bearded Iris to praise.  The solid dark purple ones are behind the purple and pale lavender ones.  I’m sure I didn’t plan that.  Just a happy accident.

These are so dark that they don’t photograph too well.

Artemisia is a plant that I think every large yard should have.  This one has been in a pot for years.  I have another one that is trying to take over a flowerbed.  To keep it in a space, simply cut off the runners.  They each have roots, so they can be potted and passed along.

To the left is native Yellow Columbine – very hardy perennial.

Artemisia has a slight silver tint and tends to be evergreen in our mild winters.  The softness of the foliage is amazing.

This Iris looks light lavender in this picture.  But in real life, it’s a true blue.  Adds a little magic to the garden.  Actually, all Irises provide elegance.

Hope you and your family are safe and well.  I pray especially for those who live in city apartments or any confined space with children and for those whose jobs have been affected by all the closings.  These times definitely call for patience.

“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in your mind.”  David G. Allen

Shade Welcome

For those who have mostly shady yards, there are different problems than for those of us who have mostly sunny yards.  Since some plants absolutely require shade, I have a few spots where they can grow.

The leaf shape of Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) gives it another common name, False Shamrock.  But the leaf color gives it a distinctive look of boldness.

Woodland Fern does well here because it can handlefrom-spring-into-fall heat, and the roots survive a cold winter.  This flowerbed against the house doesn’t receive direct sun.  Ferns enjoy a little dappled light, just like they would received in the woods.

One shady spot I have is at the back of the yard under a large Live Oak.  So pots of shade loving plants can go there.  The pot with white flowers is Plumbago (Plumbago capensis).  I actually prefer the Plumbago with purple flowers, but the one I had died.

The taller stems behind the Plumbago are Ornamental Garlic.  The larger leaves on the right side belong to a Datura or Moon Flower (Datura wrightii).

In this same area in a blue pot is Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) or Christ Plant.  Love the small flowers but am leery of the thorns.

All the plants are in pots because I don’t want to disturb the roots of the tree.  Also, some of them need inside protection during the winter.

One corner of a covered back porch has shade most of the day.  This area is filled with pots of Coleus and Old Fashioned Geraniums, meaning an old variety that is not sold in nurseries.  The past two years I have become a fan of a variety of Coleus with their lovely leaf colors and shapes.

Some of the Coleus are pass-a-longs from friends.  They root well in water.

This Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) also sits on a stand in that corner.  Just about the easier plant there is to grow.  The “spiders” that grow on long stems from the center become new plants when put into soil.

This is a corner of a front covered porch where pots of plants have been gathered.  Autumn Joy Sedum is blooming now.  To the left of that in another pot is some Columbine foliage.

A large pot of Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) is long lived when brought inside for the winter.  It will also recover from winter because the fibrous roots are very hardy.  But it takes a long time for the foliage to grown back and to become attractive again.

At the back of that covered porch is a line of Boston Ferns that are 25 years old.  They have been divided several times.  The rabbit container holds another Old Fashioned Geranium.

Purple Heart or Wandering Jew (Tradescantia pallida) returns every spring like clockwork in a shady flowerbed.Actually, shade is a welcome relief for lots of living creatures, including me during this long lived summer and continued drought.  The temperatures have fallen a bit, so that’s a treat.  Seriously need some rain.

Hope your autumn is cool and crisp with lovely yellow, orange, and auburn colors.

“We, the people, are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to over throw the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”  Abraham Lincoln

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

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

Cool Autumn

Cool autumn refers to the temperature, but, also, how terrific it is.  Isn’t it astounding how many benefits come from rain?

Not only has the rain lowered the temperatures, it has provided water for plants to produce lots of flowers.  One of my favorites is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Turk’s Cap blooms in the hot summer months, but with extra moisture, it explodes in color.

Rain provides plants under a porch cover with moisture in the air.  This African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)  was small this spring.  The ends of branches have been snipped off to use to flavor dishes several times.

This basil does not seed, so cuttings must be taken to root for new plants.

Behind the basil is Autumn Joy Sedum, with flower clusters forming.  Beside that is Asparagus Fern, then a pot of Kalanche.

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom.  It only blooms in the fall, but the large succulent leaves makes it a worthwhile plant the whole year.  Plus, it does not need winter protection if it is nestled close to a dwelling or in some other protected spot.

Obedience Plants (Physostegia virginiana) shine on.  So cool.

Dusty Miller has survived another summer in a pot.  To the right is Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Mexican Petunia has enjoyed the rains, which have transformed the scenery from brittle, drab brown to brilliant emerald green.

Wild Aster filled in this flowerbed.

It’s a pretty little bush and covers up the spent bulb flowers in this bed during the hot months.

Fabulous Bachelor Buttons or Strawberry Gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) is a bright, happy plant.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) just keeps on keeping on.  It blooms and grows further out of its bed.

Ahh, refreshing rains and cool weather.   Good for the soul.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

Shade Lovers

Finding shady areas for plants can be a challenge if you live where the sun glares down with full force for months at a time.  Shade doesn’t have to be a totally dark area, but one where there is no direct sunlight.

In my case, that means covered porches or close to the trunks of large trees.  My porch areas can look messy because I also root many plants there.  Here are Coleuses, Old fashioned Geraniums, and an Aloe Vera.

Coleus may seem like an old lady plant; since I’m an old lady and it’s only been a favorite the last couple of years, that fits.  But it brings color in areas where flowers won’t bloom.

This one came from a cutting about four years ago.  Coleuses root easily in water and are great pass-along plants.

The lime green ones really brighten up a shady place.

This is an attempt at a fairy garden.  Problem is:  when you water, pebbles and other small articles tend to wash away or fall over.  Variegated Ice Plant has grown like wildfire.

A professional gardener for a public garden made the statement that neatness is more important than what you plant.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  And, let’s face it, it’s difficult to keep a garden weeded and cleared of debris when you don’t have a staff.  That’s my excuse.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) branches bend over and grow crookedly.  This one will definitely have to be cut back before carrying it into the shed for winter.  Maybe some friends would like a cutting?

The thorns are vicious.  This one came from a cutting about six or seven years ago.  Several cuttings have been made from the original planting and propagated and given away.

This was bought at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  It can’t take our cold winters, like many of the other plants shown in this post.  It also has sharp thorns.  I keep telling myself to toss it, but here it is after two years.

These three pots of plants have been here for years and years.  The Red Apple Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia) on the left and the Autumn Joy Sedum are perennial, and thankfully do not have to be toted into the shed for the winter.  These are succulents, so broken stems can be planted directly into potting soil.

The Purple Oxalis  is not cold hardy.

The Sedum will put on a show with pink flower clusters soon.

Pale pink flowers contrast nicely with the purple leaves of Oxalis, which is in the wood-sorrel family Oxalidaceae.

African Blue Basil  (Ocimum kilimandscharicum) is another new favorite.  The smell is wonderful.  It does not reseed but can be propagated with cuttings rooted in water.

To the left is another Autumn Joy Sedum, Kalanche on the right, and Asparagus Fern in the back.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) is an extremely hardy perennial ground cover.  As demonstrated by this picture, it spreads rapidly and should be contained.  This flowerbed is surrounded by a porch and a sidewalk on two sides.

The light pink flowers always show up white in my pictures.  The stems can be broken or cut and rooted in water.  Another good pass-along plant.

“You can lead a man to congress, but you can’t make him think.”  Milton Berle

Storybook Sculptures

Abilene, Texas, calls itself Storybook Capital of the World.  Scattered around the downtown area are sculptures of characters from children’s books as well as various other sculptures.

I’m starting with my least favorite:  Dino Bob from the book Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.

Never heard of this book.

The Man in the Moon is represented by a moon up on a tall pole.

Also, unknown to me.  Don’t give up.  It gets better.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stands outside the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature building.

Everman Park, beside the renovated train depot, contains the Dr. Seuss Sculptures.  A nice job of landscaping this area uses hardy Texas plants, like the New Gold Lantana in the picture.  This lantana is a hybrid and makes a 6 to 8 foot ground cover.

Although this isn’t Dr. Seuss, it’s at the park entrance.  Santa Calls sculpture depicts three children who travel to the North Pole.  Santa sent a flying machine called Yuletide Flyer.The beloved Cat in the Hat turns a rainy day into unexpected fun for children.

Some  small Magnolia trees had blossoms.  It’s unusual to see Magnolias in Central Texas, but this is probably a Little Gem Magnolia, which is a late bloomer, smaller than most Magnolias, and survives in zones 5 – 9.

The Lorax speaks for the trees and warns of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.

Yurtle the Turtle, who claims to be the king of the pond, climbs on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon.  A good message to us all not to feel more important than others.

In spite of derogatory remarks in the news recently about Dr. Seuss, I think he had an important role.  He got many kids interested in reading and learning and did it in an extremely fun way.

The Grinch tries to sabotage Christmas in Whoville.

Another small Magnolia surrounded by Knockout Roses, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and a Boxwood hedge.  The roses may be Drift Roses, which are a type of Knockouts.

Russian Sage is a good choice for arid areas.  It has a lovely scent and is hardy.  It does spread, so these will become overcrowded at some point.

Sam, I am, encourages everyone to try Green Eggs and Ham.

In the second book to feature Horton, Horton Hears a Who, he once again becomes the protector of a helpless creature.  A small piece of dust that talks to Horton asks for help.  Even though he is ridiculed and harassed by the other animals, Horton states that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. SeussSave

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