Reliable Perennials Perform Over and Over

Cooler mornings and evenings means a few hours to work or relax outside comfortably.

The plants must also appreciate a break from the heat.

This bed of Henry Duelburg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is always abuzz with hungry bees.  It is also sold under the name Blue Mealy Cup Sage.

What a wonderful, rewarding perennial.  Every year it blooms and blooms.

It is so hardy that it’s known as the cemetery sage.  For good reason, it was chosen as a Texas Superstar plant.

It’s almost impossible to point the camera and not get a picture of a bee.  I think these are bumble bees since they never bother me.

One last shot.  This salvia, like most, does spread.  But, in this case, I consider that a plus.

It’s also easy to transplant.  I dug some of the Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Deulberg’), with white flowers up and put them in this pot.

Some other reliable perennials are Turk’s Cap on the left, Salvia Greggi on the right, and Rose of Sharon in the background.

This year, the orange Ditch Daylilies have made a reblooming curtain call.  My two larger beds of these lilies are all blooming.  Crazy.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads to a large mass that deserves loud applause.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love it.

Garlic foliage and flowers on tall stems move gracefully in the wind.  Not sure if these are just ornamental or also edible.  Just got them for the flowers.

Only kind of grasshopper I like are those that don’t destroy plants.  Behind this pot are Coral Drift Roses.

Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans) is drought tolerant and grows well in limestone soils.  So it seems perfect for my location.

The problem is that it sometimes freezes and doesn’t return.  The cold hardiness for Yellow Bells is zone 9.  I live in zone 7b.  So this past winter, I cut it to the ground, piled up mulch, and turned a ceramic pot over it.  Hooray.  It made it.  But it has been extremely slow to get any height and flowers this year.  So I guess there will be a repeat performance this winter to protect it.

“Remove one freedom per generation and soon you will have no freedom and no one would have noticed.”  Karl MarxSave







A small town in the midst of scrub brush in flat West Texas has a garden, which was the result of one man’s labor.

eden01The Garden of Eden has some surprising elements.  It’s been two years since I last visited, and it has changed some.

eden1A large plastic tank has recycling water – nice soothing sound.

eden2An old milk can is used as the spout vessel.  I’m surprised that it hasn’t rusted out.

eden3Flame Acanthus (Aniscanthus quadrifidus var. quadrifidus var. wrightii) is scattered throughout the garden.  Once established, it’s very hardy.

eden4No surprise that hummingbirds and butterflies visit the tubular flowers.  It is drought tolerant and even does well in poor soils.

eden5Coral Honeysuckle or Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) has become a bramble beside the metal archway where it was originally trained to grow.

eden7A banana tree growing in West Texas.  Hard to believe that it can withstand the dry heat or the winter temperatures.  Yet, here it is producing bananas.

eden6This was a volunteer plant that came up and no one has been able to identify it.

eden8Lots of pretty grasses.  Although many ornamental grasses last only one year, this one must be perennial.

edenaNative Morning Glory grabs hold of lots of bushes and intertwines in the stems and leaves.  Here it is growing among Mexican Petunias.

edenbThe yellow flowers are Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans), which is a beloved plant that is native to far West Texas in the Big Bend area.  It is a tall shrub with gorgeous flowers that is drought tolerant and abides limestone soils.

However, cold winters have done mine in.  But I keep trying to save one.

eden02Although this garden has been turned over to the city and depends on volunteers for maintenance, the man who planted it is still very much involved.

edencTypical agave with Mexican Petunias behind them.  Agaves are not all that cold hardy, so I’m surprised to see them here.

edendTangerine Beauty Crossvine (Bignonia capreolate ‘Tangerine Beauty’) is a perfect fit for this part of Texas.  It is cold hardy, endures the hot summers, and is pretty, to boot.

edeneTexas Sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum) is a common sight in pastures and is extremely hardy.  It has sharp edges, so it should not be planted close to walkways.

edenfAnother hardy plant, Salvia Greggii Red Sage has a pleasant scent, especially when brushed as one passes by it.  It is a semi woody plant that is native to Texas and Mexico.  It thrives in the heat but does not tolerant wet feet.

edengAs a soft plant for touching, Artemesia in the Mugwort family is a wonderful choice.  They are grown for their silvery-green foliage and for their wonderful aroma.

edenhMore Yellow Bells

edeniFour O’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were grown by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental purposes.  They spread profusely.  Where each black seed falls, a new plant will spring up.  The seeds can be seen in the picture where spend flowers have fallen.

edenjPalo Verde Trees (Parkinsonia aculeata) are desert trees that have pretty yellow flowers in the spring.  Maybe the mild winters the last few years have allowed this one to get a foothold.
edenkA clever tin man that I would like to duplicate but finding the right size cans could be a problem.

Although most of the plants in this garden are what one would expect to see in this area, it seems lush with the paths winding through tall shrubs and full plantings.

“Knowledge is knowing what to say.  Wisdom is knowing when to say it.”  unknown













Fredericksburg & Kerrville Gardens

The National Museum of the Pacific War or The Nimitz as it’s known locally, keeps expanding.  A one day visit is not sufficient to absorb all the information and view all the exhibits.  Maybe a younger person with lots of stamina would be more successful.  Down the street from the original building is an open air museum with military vehicles and more exhibits in new buildings.

fredericksburgcOn this visit we were focused on a new garden, a Japanese Garden, behind the the main building.

fredericksburgdThe Garden of Peace was a gift of the people of Japan.

fredericksburgccThe climate in Japan is very different than central Texas, so plant selection must have been tricky.


fredericksburgdddMany of the plants used are favorites in the area because they are so hardy.  A Crape Myrtle shades this spot.

fredericksburgeWith the raked white sand and a few small pines, the Texas plants look right at home.

fredericksburgeeA traditional style Japanese house can be viewed from the outside.

fredericksburgeeeLooking back at the garden, we are standing at an opening in the wall that leads to a memorial area.

fredericksburgggHundreds of pictures of men and women who served during WWII are embedded in limestone walls.

fredericksburgfIt’s a quiet area with some traffic heard in the background.


fredericksburgfffIt’s a wonderful tribute to fallen servicemen and others who served.  But also, it’s a grim reminder of horrific suffering.

fredericksburggA screw propeller from a ship makes a fitting statue.

fredericksburiIn Kerrville we visited the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the AgriLife Extension Building.

In the above picture patches of different kinds of grasses are grown.  Made we wonder how they keep the grasses from creeping into the other plots.  Maybe our native Bermuda is the only one that is a monster.


Firebush (Hamelia patens) is a Texas Superstar plant. It is very heat and drought tolerant once established and will grow in almost any soil.

fredericksburiiiPlus, it’s really attractive with bold color.

fredericksburkA large grouping of another Texas superstar Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) was stunning.

fredericksburjPollinators, especially butterflies, love Dill plant.

fredericksburjjAnd I love the airy structure.

Our one day outing was beneficial to choose gardens for our Master Garden class to attend.  It was a beautiful cool-ish August day, which are normally rare.  This year we’ve been blessed with many such days.

Thanks for taking this trip with me.

“Happiness is a choice, not a result.  Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy.”  Ralph Marston

African Bulbine/Other Flowering Plants

Fantastic weather.  Our mornings have turned cool:  50’s and 60’s greet us early.  With highs in the 80’s, this is really autumn.  Not only are we enjoying it, but plants are rejuvenating with a sigh of relief.

stillblooming9This is probably the best time of the year for Purple Heart and African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’).  More flowers  appear and the color of both flowers and foliage is stronger.

Since the Bulbine is native to South Africa, it is an annual here.  Mine stay in pots that must be brought inside during the winter.  They survive well in our shed kept just a few degrees above freezing.  In the spring when we bring the pots out, I pull out a few clumps of the succulent leaves and plant them in a bed.

stillblooming6For some reason, I cannot get a good close up that shows the true colors of Purple Heart.

stillblooming7This is better, but the flower is a little deeper pink in reality.

stillbloomingaTexas Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans ‘Gold Star’) are such a delight.  This one is hardy to Zone 9.  An important note for those in lower number zones.  Buy the Gold Star and not a tecoma grown from seed.  Otherwise, it will be an annual.

stillbloomingbPreviously I had tried the Esperanzas sold in chain stores.  Losing them in the winter made me a believer in the Texas hardy one.

stillbloomingcA few Purple Cone flowers (Echinacea purpurea) keep opening up.

stillbloomingdTheir colors are paler, but still pretty.

stillbloomingeThe cone flowers are visited by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

stillbloomingiThe Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) bushes have spread this year and the flowers have been brilliant.  They have become established and just make themselves at home.   The bushes spread out like a queen draping her skirt out beyond her throne.

Turk’s Cap can be grown in the sun or shade.  In the sun, they flower more, but their leaves do better in the shade.

On the right is an Autumn Sage.

stillbloominggLots of pollinators love Turk’s Cap, including this Splinter Moth.

stillbloominghRussian Sage is still covered with blossoms.  With their soft pastel color and indistinct form they look like a Monet painting.

And now from Art Master’s Gallery is a picture that speaks to our drought situation.

mousesidewalkCute, huh?

“Every test in our life makes us bitter or better.
Every problem comes to break us or make us.
The choice is ours whether we become victim or victor.”

Cheery Plants

Because I can’t see my grandchildren or friends everyday, there is another way to brighten my day.  I just step outside and watch the fluffy cumulus clouds drift across the sky.  Or walk out to look at some flowers blooming.yellowbellsIn August clusters of Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans) hang on drooping stems.  The branches are leaning more than usual this year because I didn’t put them through metal hoop stands to hold them up as I usually do.

yellowbells2Texas Yellow Bells are native to the Big Bend area of West Texas.  That alone reveals how hardy they are.

yellowbells3The tubular shape is good for bees.

standingcypressIt’s not uncommon to hear:  “Oh, my gosh.  What is that gorgeous red flower that grows along the Texas highways.”

The answer is Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra).  The flowers are along the top of a tall slender branch.  They are bold and eye catching in any landscape.  I’ve wanted some for years.  Finally, in the spring at the Lady Bird Johnson Center, I bought three small ones.  Only two lived, so I’m really hoping they will reseed.

cornflower2Another plant I’ve wanted is a Coneflower.  This one (Echinacea sanguine) is bigger than others I had seen.  This was also bought this year at the Lady Bird Center.  Sanguinea is Latin for blood.  This refers to the color of the petals.  But they look pink to me.

cornflowerThe shape is so interesting.  It reminds me of badminton birdies.

cornflower4See.  It makes you smile.

God has provided many things to bring us joy.  Nature is just one of them.

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” James Matthew Barrie

Country Garden Visit

On a sunny day the last week of September a group of 10 people from the Brownwood Garden Club went to visit friends outside of Decatur.  They have lived there for about 35 years.

First, a disclaimer, these pictures were made in the middle of the day when the bright sun fades everything out.  Plus, I was using a new camera that still needs some adjustments.

Even though they are about 175 miles northeast of us, their soil and weather conditions are similar to what we have on the ranch:  caliche and rock with a little clay topsoil and sparse rain.  The yard is large and has several flowerbeds:  one is the length of the yard.

There were lots of clumps of spider lilies (the red flowers on the left) blooming this time of the year.

Many kinds of butterflies were everywhere landing on plants and people.  The red cockscomb reminds me of my childhood.  I grew up in West Texas, so we didn’t have many flowers or grass in our yard.  But Mother did always have some cockscombs.

This vine on an arch was new to me.  It is Cypress Vine, also called Star Glory.  I love it.  If only I had another place for a vine.

This is Mexican Oregano, which is at the end of its blooming season.  It is hardy and reseeds easily.

These pink puff flowers are gomphrena “fireworks’ and the orange-red is gomphrena “strawberry fields”.  Both are semi perennial and reseed easily.

The gardens are planted according to the amount of water required by the plants in each bed.  So here is a cactus type group with metal roadrunners right at home.

The gardener said the purple flowers are on a potato plant that she found on a sale table at a major nursery.  She’ll update me on how it makes it through the winter. This gardener’s main love is Texas natives.  That’s practical – don’t fight the environment.  The tall plant in back with yellow flowers is a Texas Gold Star, a type of esperanza.

Because of older trees, there are several shaded garden areas.

I’m a sucker for any scene that screams “country”.

These gourds were grown from seeds that came from Mexico.  They can be used in cooking when pulled from the vines when they are a yellow squash size.  In fact, we were served gourd bread (made like a pumpkin bread) that was very tasty.

These pictures just give a peek into this garden.  Our gracious hosts opened their home and garden for a lovely day of wandering around and asking questions.

“My father asserted that there was no better place to bring up a family than in a rural environment.  There’s something about getting up at 5 a.m., feeding the stock and chickens, and milking a couple of cows before breakfast that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of butter and eggs.” Bill Vaughan


Many of the major nursery chains and home improvement stores with nurseries sell Esperanzas in Texas – at least in central and north Texas.  In the spring with their beautiful clusters of yellow tubular flowers, they are hard to resist.  I have tried them two different years, but neither of them survived the winter.

An article in a magazine claimed there was a hardy Gold Star Esperanza that is a Texas SuperStar.  So I looked for it.  Finally, three years ago I found one at Sue’s Backyard in Brownwood.  But she could not assure me that it would survive a really cold winter.

But so far, it has come back every year.  Munching helps.  It is still confusing to shop for an esperanza because most nurseries do not know the difference between the two types.  Both are labeled Tecoma stans “Gold Star”.  They are both called Esperanza, Yellow Bells, or Yellow Alder.

The blooms on the SuperStar esperanza have an orange center.  The varieties that I’ve seen sold in nursuries are a pure yellow.  Both love the sun and grow to 3 – 4′ tall.  The one I have does not bloom until the middle of June.  The best bet is to find a nursery employee with some horticulture knowledge.

I really like both types of Esperanza.  But I’m not willing to buy and plant a new one every spring.  In fact, I’m learning to use mostly perennials.  Sometimes I buy a small annual for color.  But it’s possible to get all the color I need with flowers that reseed or perennials.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”  Henry Ward Beecher